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Locke versus Reid Again 

C. V. DUNN of Oklahoma City sends 
us the following inquiry: 

I believe I read a statement of 
yours in The Christian-Evangelist 
some years ago that the influence 
of Locke upon Campbell was not 
nearly so great as has been sup- 
posed. I have examined Richard- 
son's Memoirs of Alexander Camp- 
bell, Alexander Campbell, by Graf- 
ton, and The Religious Education 
of Alexander Campbell, by 
Athearn, but find nothing definite. 

As previously noted on this page, it 
is a matter of regret that no adequate 
appraisal of the influence of the Scot- 
tish school of philosophy upon the 
thinking of Alexander and Thomas 
Campbell is at the present available. 
Richardson's Memoirs makes no at- 
tempt to deal with the question and 
the same thing is true of the brief 
biography written by Thomas W. Graf- 
ton. Clarence Athearn's thesis deals 
only in a limited way with the subject 
because its author was concerned pri- 
marily with religious education in its 
technical sense rather than philosophy. 
No doubt later research will rectify the 
situation to which our correspondent 
refers in his letter. 



MAY 18, 1949 

Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2013 

&*,J^ yfm a tfM' 


Pnblilhed according- to Act of ParKamenl hy Bell 8C Bradfirte Edinlraigii, JmrT 180 






THOMAS R E I DTI). D. F. R. S. Edin 




Vol. I. 

— '••-■<irn* r ''.:'-' 




_ ^_ — , 












B Y 







PREFACE, - - '» vii 



Chap. l. Explication of words, - - iy 

— 2. Principles taken for granted, - - 57 

— —- 3. Of hypothefes, - - - - 72 

— — — - 4. Of analogy , - - - 81 

\_ — 5. Of the proper means of knowing the opera- 
tions of the mi fid, - 87 

11- 6. Of the difficulty of atte?iding to the opera- 
tions of our own minds, - - 94 

b Chap, 

xviii CONTENTS. 

Chap. 7. Divifon of the powers of the mind, 102 

■ 1 m- 8. Of J octal operations of mind, - 109 


Chap. 1. Of the organs oj ' fenfe, - - 115 

1, Of the imprejjions on the organs, nerves 

and brain, - - - - 12 £ 

— 3. Hypothefes concerning the nerves and 

brain, - - - - - 125 

— — . 4. Falfe conclujions drawn from the impref- 

fions before mentioned, - - 144 

5. Of perception, ■- - ~ - 159 

— 6. What it is to account for a phenomenon in 

Nature, - - - 1 70 

, 7, Sentime/its of Philofophers about the per- 
ception of external obje&s ; and, firfl, 

Of the theory of Father MalebraNCHE, 175 

» _. 8. Of the common theory of perception, and 

of the fentiments of the Peripatetics, 
and of Des Cartes, - - 188 

„__-,_ 9. Of the fentiments of Mr LoCKE, - 216 




Chap. io. Of the fentiments of Bi/hop Berke- 
ley, - - 235 
— 11. Bijhop Berkeley's fentiments of the na- 
ture of ideas, - - - 261 

12. Of the fentiments of Mr Hume, - 278 

. 13. Of the fentiments of Antony Arnauld, 285 

14. Ref ec7 ions on the common theory of ideas, 294 

— 15. Account of the fyfiem of Leibnitz, 325 

• 16. Of fen fat ion, - - - - 336 

17. Of the objecls of perceptio?i ; and, firf, 

Of primary and fecondary quali- 
ties, - - 349 

— 18. Of other ohjeSis of perception, - 368 

r» 19. Of matter and fpace, - 380 

20. Of the evidence of fenfe, and of belief in 

general, - - - - 395 

. — 21. Of the i??iproveraent of the fenfes, 410 

— 22. Of the fallacy of the fenfes, - 424 


Chap. 1. 'Things obvious and certain with regard 

to memory, - - - 44^ 

2. Memory an original faculty, - - 449 



Chap. 3. Of Duration, - - "455 

— 4. Of identity, - 461 

— — ~ 5. Mr Locke's account of the origin of our 
ideas, and particularly of the idea of 
duration, - - - 471 

, 6. Of Mr Locke's account of our perjonal 

identity, - - - 4S5 

=— — 7. ^Theories concerning memory ', - 494 


i - -tt-i-wJEumjumj 





Who hath put nvifdom in the inward parts ? Job. 

mm mm i iii ■ 







professor of the theory of physic, 

in the un1versit2" of edinburgh. 

My Dear Friends, 

I KNOW not to whom I can addrefs thefe Ef= 
fays with more propriety than to You ; not 
only on account of a friendfhip begun in early 
life on your part, though in old age on mine,, 
and in one of you I may fay hereditary \ nor 
yet on account of that correfpondence in our 
literary purfuits and amufements, which has al- 
ways given me fo great pleafure ; but becaufe, 
if thefe Effays have any merit, you have a con- 
iiderable fhare in it, having not only encouraged 
me to hope that they may be ufeful, but favour- 
ed me with your obfervations on every part of 

& 2 them, 


them thirty years ago, delivered to them more 
difFufely, and with the repetition's and illustra- 
tions proper for fuch audiences. 

I am afraid, indeed, that the more intelligent 
reader, who is converfant in fuch abftract fub- 
jects, may think that there are repetitions ftill 
left, which might be fpared. Such, I hope, will 
conlider, that what to one reader is a fuperfluous 
repetition, to the greater part, lefs converfant in 
fuch fubjects, may be very ufeful. If this apo- 
logy be deemed infufficicnt, and be thought to 
be the dictate of lazinefs, I claim fome indul- 
gence even for that lazinefs, at my period of 

You who are in the prime of life, with the 
vigour which it infpires, will, I hope, make 
more happy advances in this or in any other 
branch of fcience to which your talents may be 



June t. 1785. 



Ill 111 'I I IV) 


Uman knowledge may be reduced to two 
general heads, according as it relates to 
body, of to mind ; to things material, or to 
things intellectual. 

The whole fyftem of bodies in the Univerfe„ 
of which we know but a very fmall part, may 
be called the Material World ; the whole fyf- 
tem of minds, from the infinite Creator to th£ 
meanefl creature endowed with thought, may 
be called the Intellectual World. Thefe are 
the two great kingdoms of nature that fall with- 
in our notice ; and about the one, or the other, 
or things pertaining to them, every art, every 
fcience, and every human thought is employed $ 
nor can the boldeft flight of imagination carry 
us beyond their limits. 

Many things there, are, indeed, regarding the 

nature and the ftructure both of body and of 

mind, which our faculties cannot reach ; many 

difficulties which the ableft Philoibpher cannot 

a 4 refolve : 


refolve ; Vut of other natures, if any other there 
be, we have no knowledge, no conception at 

That every thing that exifts muft be either 
corporeal or incorporeal, is evident. But it is 
not fo e ident, that every thing that exifts muft 
either be corporeal, or endowed with thought. 
Whether there be in the Univerfe, beings, which 
are neither extended, folid and inert, like body, 
nor active and intelligent, like mind, feems to 
be beyond the reach of our knowledge. There 
appears to be a vaft interval between body and 
mind, and whether there be any intermediate na- 
ture that connects them together, we know 

We have no reafon to afcribe intelligence, or 
even fenfation, to plants; yet there appears in 
them an active force and energy, which cannot 
be the refult of any arrangement or combina- 
tion of inert matter. The fame thing may be 
faid of thofe powers by which animals are nou- 
rifhed and grow, by which matter gravitates, 
by which magnetical and electrical bodies at- 
tract and repel each other, and by which the 
parts of folid bodies cohere. 

Some have conjectured, that the phenomena 
of the material world which require active 
force, are produced by the continual operation 
of intelligent beings : Others have conjectured, 
that there may be in the Univerfe, beings that 



are active without intelligence, which, as a kind 
of incorporeal machinery, contrived by the Su- 
preme Wifdom, perform their deftined talk 
without any knowledge or intention. But, lay- 
ing afide conjecture, and all pretences to deter- 
mine in things beyond our reach, we muft reft 
in this, that body and mind are the only kinds 
of being of which we can have any knowledge, 
or can form any conception. If there be other 
kinds, they are not difcoverable by the faculties 
which God hath given us ; and, with regard to 
us, are as if they were not. 

As, therefore, all our knowledge is confined 
to body and mind, or things belonging to them, 
there are two great branches of philofophy, one 
relating to body, the other to mind. The pro- 
perties of body, and the laws that obtain in the 
material fyftem, are the objects of Natural Phi- 
lofophy, as that word is now ufed. The branch 
which treats of the nature and operations of 
minds has by fome been called Pneumatology. 
And to the one or the other of thefe branches, 
the principles of all the fciences belong. 

What variety there may be of minds or think- 
ing beings throughout this' vaft univerfe, we can- 
not pretend to fay. We dwell in a little corner 
of God's dominion, disjoined from the reft of 
it. The globe which we inhabit is but one of 
feven planets that encircle our fun. What va- 
rious orders of beings may inhabit the other fix, 


x Preface. 

their fecondaries, and the comets belonging to 
our fyftern ; and how many other funs may be 
encircled with like fyftems, are things altoge- 
ther hid from us. Although human reafon and 
induftry have difcovered with great accuracy 
the order and diftances of the planets, and the 
laws of their motion, we have no means of cor- 
refponding with them. That they may be the 
habitation of animated beings is Very probable \ 
"but of the nature, or powers of their inhabitants, 
we are perfectly ignorant. Every man is con- 
fcious of a thinking principle or mind in him- 
felf, and we have fufficient evidence of a like 
principle in other men. The aclions of brute 
animals mow, that they have fome thinking 
principle, though of a nature far inferior to the 
human mind. And every thing about us may 
convince us of the exigence of a Supreme Mind, 
the Maker and Governor of the Univerfe. Thefe 
are all the minds of which reafon can give us 
any certain knowledge. 

The mind of man is the nobleft work of God 
which reafon difcovers to us, and therefore, on 
account of its dignity, deferves our iludy. It 
muft indeed be acknowledged, that although it is 
of all obje&s the neareu\to us, and feems the moil 
within our reach, it is very difficult to attend 
to its operations, fo as to form a diftiricl: notion 
of them ; and on that account there is no branch 
of knowledge in which the ingenious and fpecu- 

* lative 


iative have fallen into fo great errors, and even 
abfurdities. Thefe errors and abfurdities have 
given rife to a general prejudice againft all in- 
quiries of this nature ; and becaufe ingenious 
men have, for many ages, given different and 
contradictory accounts of the powers of the 
mind, it is concluded, that all fpeculations con- 
cerning them are chimerical and vihonary. 

But whatever effect this prejudice may have 
with fuperficial thinkers, the judicious will not 
be apt to be carried away with it. About two 
hundred years ago, the opinions of men in na- 
tural philofophy were as various, and as contra- 
dictory, as they are now concerning the powers 
of the mind. Galileo, Torricelli, Kepler, 
Bacon, and Newton, had the fame difcourage- 
ment in their attempts to throw light upon the 
material fyfterri, as we have with regard to the 
intellectaul. If they had been deterred by fuch 
prejudices, we mould never have reaped the be- 
nefit of their difcoveries, which do honour to 
human nature, and will make their names im- 
mortal. The motto which Lord Bacon prefix- 
ed to forne of his writings was worthy of his 
genius, I/ivemam viam dut faciam. 

There is a natural order in the progrefs of 
the fciences, and good reafons may be affigned 
why the philofophy of body mould be elder 
fifter to that of mind, and of a quicker growth ; 
but the lait hath the principle of life no lefs 



than the firft, and will grow up, though ilowly^ 
to maturity* The remains of ancient philo- 
fophy upon this fubject, are venerable ruins, 
carrying the marks of genius and induftry, fuf- 
flcient to inflame, but not to fatisfy, our curio- 
fity. . In later ages, Des Cartes was the firft 
that pointed out the road we ought to take in 
thofe dark regions. Malebranche, Arnaud, 
Locke, Berkeley, Buffier, Hutcheson, But- 
ler, Hume, Price, Lord Kames, have laboured 
"to make difcoveries ; nor have they laboured in 
vain. For, however different and contrary their 
conclusions are, however fceptical fome of them, 
they have all given new light, and cleared the 
way to thofe who mall come after them. 

We ought never to defpair of human genius, 
but rather to hope, that, in time, it may pro- 
duce a fyftem of the powers and operations of 
the human mind, no lefs certain than thofe of 
optics or aftronomy. 

This is the more devoutly to be wifhed, that 
a diftincl knowledge of the powers of the mind 
would undoubtedly give great light to many 
other branches of fcience. Mr Hume hath juft- 
ly obferved, that " all the fciences have a rela- 
" tion to human nature ; and, however wide 
" any of them may feem to run from it, they 
" ftill return back by one paifage or another. 
" This is the centre and capitol of the fcie- 

*' ences, 

• PREFACE. xili 

" ences, which being once mailers of, we may 
" eafily extend our conquefts every where."' 

The faculties of our minds are the tools and 
engines we muft ufe in every difquifition ; and 
the better we underftand their nature and force, 
the more fuccefsfully we mall be able to apply 
them. Mr Locke gives this account of the oc- 
cafion of his entering upon his Eilay concerning 
Human Undemanding : " Five or fix friends 
' (fays he) meeting at my chamber, and dif- 
' courfing on a fubjed very remote from this, 
' found themfelves quickly at a ftand, by the 
' difficulties that rofe on every fide. After we 
' had for a while puzzled ourfelves, without 
' coming any nearer to a refolution of thofe 
' doubts that perplexed us, it came into my 
• thoughts that we took a wrong courfe ; and 
' that, before we fet ourfelves upon inquiries 
''* of that nature, it was neceflary to examine 
' our own abilities, and fee what objects our 
< understandings were fitted or not fitted to 
' deal with. This I propofed to the company, 
' who all readily affented ; and thereupon it 

" was agreed that this mould be our .rft In- 
1 quiry." If this be commonly the caufe of 

perplexity in thofe difquifitions which have ieaft. 

relation to the mind, it muft be fo much more 

in hole that have an immediate connexion 

with it. 



The fciences may be diftinguifhed into two 
claSes, according as they pertain to the mate- 
rial or to the intellectual world. The various 
parts of Natural Philofophy, the mechanical 
Arts, Chemiflry, Medicine, and Agriculture, be- 
long to the firft ; but, to the laft, belong Gram- 
mar, Logic, Rhetoric, Natural Theology ; Mo- 
rals, Jurifprudence, Law, E Politics, and the fine 
Arts. The knowledge of the human mind is 
the root from which thefe grow, and draw their 
nourifhment. Whether therefore we confider 
the dignity of this fubject, or its fubferviency to 
fcience in general, and to the nobleft branches 
of fcience in particular, it highly deferves to be 

A very elegant writer, on the Sublime and 
Beautiful, concludes his account of the paffions 
thus: " The variety of the paffions is great, 
" and worthy, in every branch of that variety, 
" of the molt diligent inveiligation. The more 
l( accurately we fearch into the human mind, 
*i the ftronger traces we every where find of His 
" wifdom who made it. If a difcourfe on the 
" ufe of the parts of the body may be confider- 
" ed as a hymn to the Creator \ the ufe of the 
" paffions, which are the organs of the mind, 
" cannot be barren of praife to him, nor unpro- 
" ductive to ourfelves of that noble and un- 
" common union of fcience and admiration, 
" which a contemplation of the works of infi- 

v nite 


" nite Wifdora alone can afford to a rational 
" mind ; whilft referring to him whatever we 
" find of right, or good, or fair, in ourfelves, 
" difcovering his flrength and wifdom even in 
if our own weaknefs and imperfection, honour- 
f ing them where we difcover them clearly, 
?' and adoring their profundity where we are 
." loft in our fearch, we may be inquifitive 
" without impertinence, and elevated without 
" pride ; we may be admitted, if I may dare to 
" fay fo, into the counfels of the Almighty, by 
5* aconilderation of his works. This elevation 
" of the mind ought to be the principal end of* 
** all our ftudies, which, if they do not in forae 
" meafure effect, they are of very little fervice 
l < to us." 








From Dr Reid's Birth till the date of his latefi 

THE life of which I am now to prefent to the 
Royal Society a fhort account, although it 
fixes an asra in the hiftory of modern philofophy, 
was uncommonly barren of thofe incidents which 
furnifh materials for biography ; — ftrenuouily de- 
voted to truth, to virtue, and to the bell interefts 
of mankind ; but fpent in the obfcurity of a learn- 
ed retirement, remote from the purfuits of ambi- 
tion, and with little folicitude about literary 
fame. After the agitation, however, of the po- 
litical convulfions which Europe has witneifed 
Vol. I. a for 


for a courfe of years, the fimple record of fuch. 
a life may derive an intereft even from its uni- 
formity ; and when contrafted with the events of 
the palling fcene, may lead the thoughts to fome 
views of human nature, on which it is. not un- 
grateful to repofe. 

Thomas Reid, D. D. late Profeffor of Moral 
Philofophy in the Univeriity of Glafgow, was 
born on the 26th of April 171c, at Strachan in 
Kincardinefhire, a country parifh iituated about 
twenty miles from Aberdeen, on the north fide 
of the Grampian Mountains. 

His father, the Reverend Lewis Reid, was mi - 
niftcr of this parifh for fifty years. — He was a cler- 
gyman, according to his fon's account of him, re- 
fpected by all who knew him, for his piety, pru- 
dence, and benevolence ; inheriting from his an- 
ceftors, (molt of whom, from the time of the Pro- 
teflant eftablifhment, had been minifters of the 
church of Scotland), that parity and fimplicity 
of manners which became his ftation ; and a love 
of letters, which, without attracting the notice of 
the world, amufed his leifure, and dignified his 



For fome generations before his time, a pro- 
penlity to literature, and to the learned profef- 
lions, — a propensity which, when it has once be- 
come characleriftical of a race, is peculiarly apt 
to be propagated by the influence of early aftb- 
ciations and habits, — may be traced in feveral 
individuals among his kindred. One of his an- 
celtors, James Reid, was the firft miniiler of Ban- 
chory-Ternan after the Reformation ; and tranf- 
mitted to four fons a predilection for thofe ftu- 
dious habits which formed his own happinefs. 
He was himfelf a younger fon of Mr Reid of Pit- 
foddels, a gentleman of a very ancient and re- 
fpeftable family in the county of Aberdeen. 

James Reid was fucceeded as miniiler of Ban- 
chory by his fon Robert. — Another fon, Tho- 
mas, rofe to coniiderable diftinction both as a 
philofopher and a poet ; and feems to have want- 
ed neither ability nor inclination to turn his at- 
tainments to the belt advantage, After travel- 
ling over Europe, and maintaining, as was the 
cuftom of his age, public difputations in feve- 
ral univerfities, he collected into a volume the 
thefes and differtations which had been the 
fubjects of his literary conteits \ and alio pu- 
ff 2 blifhed 


blifhed fome Latin poems, which may be 
found in the collection entitled Deliticz Pot'- 
tartan Scotorum. On his return to his native 
country, he fixed his refidence in London, where 
he was appointed fecretary in the Greek and La- 
tin tongues to King James the Firft of England, 
and lived in habits of intimacy with fome of the 
moll diftinguifhed characters of that period.-— 
Little more, I believe, is known of Thomas 
Reid's hiftofy, excepting that he bequeathed to 
the Marifchal College of Aberdeen a curious 
collection of books and manufcripts, with a fund 
for eftablhhing a falary to a librarian. 

Alexander Reid, the third fon, was phyfkian 
to King Charles the Firft, and pubiifhed feveral 
books on furgery and medicine. The fortune he 
acquired in the courfe of his practice was cbnfi- 
derable, and enabled him (befide many legacies 
to his relations and friends) to leave various laft- 
ing and honourable memorials, both of his bene- 
volence, and of his attachment to letters. 

A fourth fon, whofe name was Adam, tranfla- 
ted into Englifh, Buchanan's Hiftory of -Scot- 
land. Of this translation, which was never pu- 
biifhed, there is a manufcript copy in the poffef- 
jlon of the Univerfity of Glafgow. 



Agrandfon of Robert, the eldeft of thefe fons, 
was the third minifter of Banchory after the Re- 
formation, and was great-grandfather of Tho- 
mas Reid, the fubject. of this memoir *. 

The particulars hitherto mentioned, are Ha- 
ted on the authority of fome fhort memoran- 
dums written by Dr Reid a few weeks before 
his death. In confequence of a fuggeftion of his 
friend Dr Gregory, he nad refolved to amufe 
himfelf with collecting fuch facts as his papers 
or memory could iupply, with refpect to his life, 
and the progrefs of his ftudies ; but, unfortu- 
nately, before he had fairly v entered on the- fub- 
ject., his defign was interrupted by his laft illnefs. 
If he had lived to complete it, I might have en- 
tertained hopes of prefenting to the Public fome 
details with refpect to the hiftory of his opinions 
and fpeculations on thofe important fubjects to 
which he dedicated his talents ; — the molt inte- 
tefting of all articles in the biography of a phi- 
lofopher, and of which, it is to be lamented, that 
10 few authentic records are to be found in the 
a 3 annals 

* Note A. 


annals of letters.- All the information, however, 
which I have derived from thefe notes, is ex- 
haufted in the foregoing pages ; and I muft con- 
tent myfelf, in the continuation of my narrative, 
with thofe indirect aids which tradition, and the 
recollection of a few old acquaintance, afford ; 
added to what I myfelf have learned from Dr 
Re id's converfation, or collected from a careful 
perufal of his writings. 

His mother, Margaret Gregory, was a 
daughter of David Gregory, Efq; of Kinnair- 
die, in Banffshire ; elder brother of James Gre- 
gory, the inventor of the reflecting telefcope, 
and the antagonift of Huyghens. She was one 
of twenty-nine children J the moit remarkable of 
whom was David Gregory, Savilian Profeffor 
of Altronomy at Oxford, and an intimate friend 
of Sir Isaac Newton. Two of her younger 
brothers were at the fame time Profeffors of Ma- 
thematics ; the one at St Andrew's, the other at 
Edinburgh ; and were the firft perfons who 
taught the Newtonian philofophy in our north- 
ern univerlities. The hereditary worth and ge- 
nius which have fo long diftinguifhed, and which 
Hill diftinguifh, the defcendants of this- memo- 

- rable 


table family, are well known to all who have 
turned their attention *to Scottifh biography • 
but it is not known ib generally, that through 
the female line, the fame characteriftical endow- 
ments have been confpicuous in various inftan- 
ees ; and that to the other monuments which il- 
luftrate the race of the Gregories, is to be add- 
ed the Pbilafophy of Reid. 

With refpect to the earlier part of Dr Re id's 
life, all that I have been able to learn, amounts 
to this, That, after two years fpent at the pa- 
rifh-fchool of Kincardine, he was fent to Aber- 
deen, where he had the advantage of profe- 
cuting his claffical ftudies under an able and di- 
ligent teacher ; "that, about the age of twelve or 
thirteen, he was entered as a Undent in Mari- 
fchal College ; and that his mailer in philofophy^ 
for three years, was Dr George Turnbull, 
who afterwards attracted fome degree of notice 
as an author ; particularly, by a book, entitled, 
Principles of Moral Philofophy, and by a vo- 
luminous treatife (long ago forgotten) on An- 
cient Painting*. The feffions of the College 
a 4 were, 

* Note B= 


were, at that ' time, very fhort, and the educa- 
tion (according to Dr Reid's own account) 
flight and fuperiicial. 

It does not appear from the information which 
I have received, that he gave any early indica- 
tions of future eminence. His induftry, how- 
ever, and modefty, were confpicuous from his 
childhood ; and it was foretold of him, by the 
parifti fchoolmafter, who initiated him in the 
iirft principles of learning, " That he would turn 
" out to be a man of good and well wearing 
" parts ;" a prediction which touched, not un- 
happily, on that capacity of " patient thought'" 
which fo peculiarly characterized his philofophi- 
cal genius. 

His refidence at the Univerfity was prolonged 
beyond the ufual term, in confequence of his 
appointment to the office of Librarian, which 
had been endowed by one of his anceftors about 
a century before. The fituation was acceptable 
to him, as it afforded an opportunity of indul- 
ging his paffion for ftudy, and united the charms 
of a learned fociety, with the quiet of an acade- 
mical retreat. 



During this period, he formed an intimacy 
with John Stewart, afterwards ProfefTor of 
Mathematics in Marifchal College, and author 
of a Commentary on Newton's Quadrature 
of Curves. His predilection for mathemati-* 
cal purfuits, was confirmed and flrengthened 
by this connection. I have often heard him 
mention it with much pleafure, while he recol- 
lected the ardour with which they both prole - 
cuted thefe fafcinating ftudies, and the lights 
which they imparted mutually to each other, in 
their rlrft perufal of the Principia, at a time 
when a knowledge of the Newtonian difco- 
veries was only to be acquired in the writings 
of their illuflrious author. 

In 1736, Dr Reid religned his office of li- 
brarian, and accompanied Mr Stewart on an 
excurlion to England. They vifited together 
London, Oxford, and Cambridge, and were in- 
troduced to the acquaintance of many perfons 
of the firft literary eminence. His relation 
to Dr David Gregory procured him a ready 
accefs to Martin, whofe houfe concen- 
trated the moil interefting objects which the 
metropolis had to offer to his curiofity. At 



Cambridge he faw Dr Bentley, who delighted 
him with his learning, and ai^pifed him with 
his vanity ; and enjoyed repeatedly the conver- 
fation of the blind mathematician, Saunderson ; 
a phenomenon in the hiftory of the human 
mind, t(y which he has referred more than once, 
in his philofophical fpeculations. 

With the learned and amiable man who was 
his companion in this journey, he maintained an 
uninterrupted friendfhip till 1766, when Mr 
Stewart died of a malignant fever. His death 
was accompanied with circumftances deeply af- 
flicting to Dr Reid's fenfibility ; the fame dif- 
order proving fatal to his wife and daughter, both 
of Whom were buried with him in one grave. 

In 1737, Dr Reid was prefented, by the King's 
College of Aberdeen, to the living of New- Ma- 
char in the fame county ; but the circumftances 
in which he entered on his preferment were far 
from aufpicious. The intemperate zeal of one 
of his predeceflbrs, and an averfion to the law of 
patronage, had fo inflamed the minds of his pa- _ 
rifhioners againft him, that, in the firft difcharge 
of his clerical functions, he had not only to en- 
counter the moll violent opponticn, but was ex- 
po fed 


pofedto perfonal danger. His unwearied atten- 
tion, however, to the duties of his office ; the 
mildnefs and forbearance of his temper, and the 
active fpirit of his humanity, foon overcame all 
thefe prejudices ; and, not many years afterwards, 
when he was called to a different fituation, the 
fame perfons who had fuffered themfelves to be 
fo far milled, as to take a fhare " in the outrages 
againft him, followed him, on his departure, 
with their blefiings and tears. 

Dv Re id's popularity at New-Machar, (as I 
am informed by the refpectable clergyman * who 
now holds that living), increafed greatly after 
his marriage, in 1740, with Elizabeth, daugh- 
ter of his uncle, Dr George Re id, phyfician in 
London. The accommodating manners of this 
excellent woman, and her good offices among 
the lick and neceffitous, are Hill remembered 
with gratitude ; and fo endeared the family to 
the neighbourhood, that its removal was regard* 
ed as a general misfortune. The fimple and 
affecting language in which fome old men ex- 
preffed themfelves on this fubjecl. in converting 


* The Reverend William Stronach. 


with the prefent minifter, defer ves to be record- 
ed. " We fought againjl Dr Reid when he 
came, and would have fought for him when he 
went away." 

• In fome notes relative to the earlier part of 
his hiftory, which have been kindly communi- 
cated to me by the Reverend Mr Davidson, 
minifter of Rayne, it is mentioned as a proof of 
his uncommon modeily and diffidence, that long 
after he became minifter of New-Machar, he 
was accuftomed, from a diftruft in his own 
powers, to preach the fermons of Dr Tillot- 
son and of Dr Evans. I have heard alfo, 
through other channels, that he had neglected 
the practice of compoiition to a more than or- 
dinary degree, in the earlier part of his ftudies. 
The fact is curious, when contrafted with that 
eafe, perfpicuity, and purity of ftyle, which he 
afterwards attained. From fome information, 
however, which has been lately tranfmitted to 
me by one of his neareft relations, I have reafon 
to believe, that the number of original difcour- 
fes which he wrote, while a country clergyman, 
was not inconfiderable. 



The fatisfaclion of his own mind was probat- 
ory, at this period, a more powerful incentive 
to his philofophical refearches, than the hope of 
being able to inftrucl the world as an author. 
But, whatever his views were, one thing is cer- 
tain, that during his residence at New-Maehar, 
the greater part of his time was fpent in the moll 
intenfe ftudy ; more particularly in a careful 
examination of the laws of external perception, 
and of the other principles which form the 
groundwork of human knowledge. His chief 
relaxations were gardening and botany, to both 
of which purfuits he retained his attachment 
even in old age. 

A paper which he publimed in the Philofo- 
phical Tranfactions of the Royal Society of Lon- 
don, for the year 1748, affords fome light with 
refpecl to the progrefs of his fpeculations about 
this period. It is entitled, An EJfay on ®hian- 
tity, occafwned by reading a Treatife, in which 
Simple and Compound Ratios are applied to Vir- 
tue and Merit ; and fhews plainly, by its con- 
tents, that, although he had not yet entirely re- 
iinquifhed the favourite refearches of his youth, 



he was beginning to direct his thoughts to other 

The treatife alluded to in the title of this 
paper, was manifeftly the " Inquiry into the 
" Origin, of our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue" 
by Dr Hutcheson of Glafgow. According to 
this very ingenious writer, the moment of public 
good produced by an individual, depending 
partly on his benevolence, and partly on his abi- 
lity, the, relation between thefe different moral 
ideas may be expreffed in the technical form of 
algebraifls, by faying, that the firfl is in the 
compound proportion of the two others. Hence, 
Dr Hutcheson infers, that " the benevolence of 
" an agent, (which in this fyftem is fynonymous 
" with his moral merit), is proportional to a 
" fraction, having the moment of good for the 
" numerator, and the ability of the agent for 
I* the denominator.'* Various other examples 
of a fimilar nature occur in the fame work \ and 
are Hated with a gravity not altogether worthy 
of the author. It is probable, that they were 
intended merely as itlujl rations of his general 
reafonings, not as media of inveftig'ation for the 
difcovery of new conclusions ; but they appear- 



ed to Dr Reid to be an innovation which it was 
of importance to refill, on account of the tenden-j 
cy it might have (by confounding the evidence 
of different branches of fcience) to retard the 
progrefs of knowledge. The very high reputa- 
tion which Dr Hutcheson then poifeiTed in the 
Univerfities of Scotland, added to the recent 
attempts of Arbuthnot and Cheyne to ap- 
ply mathematical reafoning to medicine, would 
beftow, it is likely, an intereft on Dr Reid's 
Effay at the time of its publication, which it 
can fcarcely be expected to poffefs at prefent. 
Many of the obfervations, however, which it 
contains, are acute and original ; and all of them 
are exprefFeif with that clearnefs and precifion, fo 
confpicuous in his fubfequent compofitions. The 
circumftance which renders a fubjeci fufceptible 
of mathematical confideration, is accurately Ha- 
ted ; and the proper province of that fcience de- 
fined in fuch a manner, as fufiiciently to expofe 
the abfurdity of thofe abufes of its technical 
phrafeology which were at that time prevalent. 
From fome pafiages in it, there is, I think, 
ground for concluding, that the Author's read- 
ing had not been very extenfive previous to 



this period. The enumeration, in particular, 
jvmich he has given of the different kinds of pro- 
per quantity, affords a proof, that he was not ac- 
quainted with the refined yet found difquifitions 
concerning the nature of number and of propor- 
tion, which had appeared almofl a century be- 
fore, in the Mathematical Lectures of Dr Bar- 
row ; nor with the remarks on the fame fubject 
introduced by Dr Clarke in one of his contro- 
versial letters addreffed to Leibnitz. 

In the fame paper, Dr Reid takes occafion to 
offer fome reflections on the difpUte between 
the Newtonians and Leibnitzians concerning the 
meafure of forces. The fundamental idea on 
which thefe reflections proceed, is jufl and im- 
portant ; and it leads to the correction of an 
error, committed very generally by the partizans 
of both opinions ; that, of miftaking a queflion 
concerning the comparative advantages of two 
definitions, for a difference of ftatement, with 
refpe& to a phyfical fac~£ It mult, I think, be 
acknowledged, at the fame time, that the whole 
merits of the controverfy are not here exhauft- 
ed ; and that the honour of placing this very 
fubtle and abftrufe queflion in a point of view 



calculated to reconcile completely the contend- 
ing parties, was referved for M. D'Alembert. 
To have fallen ihort of the fuccefs which attend- 
ed the inquiries of that eminent man, on a fub- 
ject fo congenial to, his favourite habits of ftudy, 
will not reflect any difcredit on the powers of 
Dr Reid's mind, in the judgment of thofe who 
are at all acquainted with the hiftory of this ce- 
lebrated difcuilion. 

In 1752, the ProfeiTors of King? s College elect- 
ed Dr Reid Profeflor of Philofophy, in tefti- 
mony of the high opinion they had formed of 
his learning and abilities. Of the particular 
plan which he followed in his academical lec- 
tures, while he held this office, I have not been 
able to obtain any fatisfactory account ; but the 
department of fcience which was affigned to 
him by the general fyftem of education in that 
univerfity, was abundantly extenfive ; compre- 
hending Mathematics and Phyfics as well as Lo- 
gic and Ethics. A limilar fyftem was purfued 
formerly in the other univerfities of Scotland ; 
the fame profefibr then conducting his pupil? 
through all thofe branches of knowledge which 
are now appropriated to different teachers. And 
b where 


where he happened fortunately to poffefs thofe- 
various accomplishments which diitinguifhed 
Dr Reid in fo remarkable a degree, it cannot 
be doubted that the unity and comprehenfive- 
nefs of method, of which fuch academical 
courfes admitted, muft neceffarily have poffef- 
£q<1 important advantages over that more mi- 
nute fubdivifion of literary labour which has 
jince been introduced. But as public eftablifh- 
ments ought to adapt themfelves to what is 
ordinary, rather than to what is pomble, it is 
not furprhmg, that experience mould have gra- 
dually fuggefted an arrangement more fuitable 
to the narrow limits which commonly circum- 
fcribe human genius. 

Soon after Dr Reid's removal to Aberdeen, 
he projected (in conjunction with his friend Dr 
John Gregory) a literary fociety, which fub- 
iifted for many years, and which feems to have 
had the happieii effects in awakening and direct- 
ing that fpirit of philofophical refearch, which 
has fince reflected fo much luftre on the north of 
Scotland. The meetings of this fociety were 
held weekly ; and afforded the members, (be- 
fide the advantages to be derived from a mutual 

v communication 


communication of their fentiments on the com- 
mon objects of their purfuit), an opportunity of 
fubjecting their intended publications to the teft 
of friendly criticifm. The number of valuable 
works which hTued nearly about the fame time, 
from individuals connected with this inftitu- 
tion, more particularly the writings of Reid, 
Gregory, Campbell, Beattie and Gerard, 
' furnifh the befl panegyric on the enlightened 
views of thofe under whofe direction it was ori- 
ginally formed. 

Among thefe works, the moft original and 
profound was unqueltionably the Inquiry into 
the Human Mind, publimed by Dr Reid in 1764. 
The plan appears to have been conceived, and 
the fubjec~t deeply meditated, by the Author 
long before \ but it is doubtful^ whether his 
modefty would have ever permitted him to pre- 
fent to the world the fruits of his folitary ftu- 
dies, without the encouragement which he re- 
ceived from the general acquiefcence of his af- 
fociates, in the molt important conclufions to 
which he had been led. 

From a paffage in the dedication, it would 
feem, that the fpeculations which terminated in 

b 2 thefe 


thefe conclusions had commenced as early as the 
year 1739 ; at which period the publication of 
Mr Hume's Treatife of Human Nature induced 
him, for the firft time, (as he himfelf informs 
us), " to call in quefiion the principles com! 
" monly received with regard to the human 
*' understanding." In his EJfays on the Intel- 
leclual Powers, he acknowledges, that, in his 
youth, he had, without examination, admitted 
the eflablifhed opinions on which Mr Hume's 
fyflem of fcepticifm was raifed ; and that it 
was the confequences which thefe opinions feem- 
ed to involve, which roufed his fufpicions con- 
cerning their truth. " If I may prefume" (fays 
\}e) (( to fpeak my own fentiments, I once be- 
' i lieved the doctrine of Ideas fo firmly, as to em- 
" brace the whole of Berkeley's fyflem along 
il with it ; till finding other confequences to fol- 
" low from it, which gave me more uneafinefs 
il than the want of a material world, it came 
v into my mind more than forty years ago, to 
i( put the quefiion, What evidence have I for 
H this doctrine, that all the objects of myknow- 
Ci ledge are ideas in my own mind ? From that 
" time to the prefent, I have been candidly and 

f? impartially, 


" impartially, as I think, feeking for the evi- 
" dence of this principle ; but can find none, ex- 
*' cepting the authority of philofophers." 

In following the train of Dr Re id's refearches, 
this laft extract merits attention, as it contains 
an explicit avowal, on his own part, that, at one 
period of his life, he had been led, by Berke- 
ley's reafonings, to abandon the belief of the 
exiftence of matter. The avowal does honour 
to his candour, and the fact, refle&s no difcredit 
on his fagacity. The truth is, that this article of 
the Bferkleian fyftem, however contrary to the 
concluflons of a founder philofophy, was the er- 
ror of no common mind. Confidered in con- 
trail with that theory of materialifm, which the 
excellent Author was anxious to fupplant, it 
ponetTed important advantages, not only in its 
tendency, but in its fcientific .confiflency ; and 
it afforded a proof, wherever it met with a fa- 
vourable reception, of an underftanding fuperior 
to thofe cafual afTociations, which, in the ap- 
prehenlions of moll men, blend indilfolubly the 
phenomena of thought with the objects of ex- 
ternal perception. It is recorded as a faying of 
M. Turcot, (whofe philofophical opinions in 
■b % foras 


fome important points approached very nearly 
to thofe of Dr Reid *), That " he who had 
" never doubted of the exigence of matter, 
" might be amired he had no turn for meta- 
" phyfical difquilitions." 

As the refutation of Mr Hume's fceptical 
theory was the great and profeffed object of Dr 
Reid's Inquiry, he was anxious, before taking 
the field as a controverfial writer, to guard 
againft the danger of mifapprehending or mifre- 
prefenting the meaning of his adverfary, by fub- 
mitting his reafonings to Mr Hume's private 
examination. With this view, he availed him- 
felf of the good offices of Dr Blair, with whom 
both he and Mr Hume had long lived in ha- 
bits of friendfhip. The communications which 
he at firft tranfmitted, confifted only of de- 
tached parts of the work ; and appear evi- 
dently, from a correfpondence which I have 
perufed, to have conveyed a very imperfect idea 
of his general fyftem. In one of Mr Hume's 


* See, in particular, the article Ex'ijlence in the Ekeych* 



letters to Dr Blair, he betrays fome want of 
his ufual good humour, in looking forward to 
his new antagonift. " I wifn," fays he, " that 
" the Parfons would confine themfelves to their 
" old occupation of worrying one another, and 
" leave Philofophers to argue with temper, mo- 
" deration, and good manners." After Mr 
Hume, however, had read the manufcript, he 
addrefTed himfelf directly, to the Author, in 
terms fo candid and liberal, that it would be 
unjuft to his memory to withhold from the pu- 
plic fo pleafing a memorial of his character. 

" By Dr Blair's means, I have been favoured 
*' with the perufal of your performance, which I 
" have read with great pleafure and attention. 
' 6 It is certainly very rare, that a piece fo deeply 
" philofophical is wrote with fo much fpirit, and 
" affords fo much entertainment to the reader ; 
" though I muft Hill regret the difadvantages un- 
" der which I read it, as I never had the whole 
" performance at once before me, and could not 
" be able fully to compare one part with another. 
" To this reafon, chiefly, I afcribe fome obfcuri- 
" ties, which, in fpite of your fhort analyfisor ab- 
4t flracl:, Hill feem to hang over your fyftem. For I 
b 4 " muft 


" mint do you the jufiice to own, that when I en- 
" ter into your ideas, no man appears to exprefs 
" himfelf with greater perfpicuity than you do ; 
" a talent which, above all others, is requifite in 
" that fpecies of literature which you have culti- 
" vated. There are fome objections which I 
" would willingly propofe to the chapter, Of 
" Sight, did I not fufpect that they proceed from 
" my not fufficiehtly underftanding it ; and I am 
" the more confirmed in this fufpicion, as Dr 
" Blair tells me, that the former objections I 
" made had been derived chiefly from that caufe. 
* I mail therefore forbear till the whole can be 
" before me, and mail not at prefent propofe any 
" farther difficulties to your reafonings. I mall 
" only fay, that if you have been able to clear up 
" thefe abftrufe and important fubjects, inftead of 
" being mortified, I mall be fo vain as to pretend 
" to a mare of the praife ; and fhall think, that 
a my errors, by having at leaft fome coherence, 
" had led you to make a more flrict review of 
" my principles, which were the common ones, 
" and to perceive their futility. 

" As I was defirous to be of fome ufe to you, I 
11 kept a watchful eye all along over your ftyle ; 

" but 


** but it is really fo correct, and fo good Englifh, 
" that I found not any thing worth the remark- 
" ing. There is only one paffage in this chapter, 
" where you make ufe of the phrafe hinder to-do, 
" inflead of hinder from doing, which is the Eng- 
" lilh one \ but I could not find the paffage when 
" I fought for it. You may judge how unexcep- 
" tionable the whole appeared to me, when 1 
" could remark fo fmall a blemifh. I beg my 
" compliments to my friendly ( adverfaries, Dr 
" Campeell and Dr Gerard ; and alfo to Dr 
" Gregory, whom I fufpect to be of the fame 
" difpolition, though he has not openly declared 

" himfelf fuch." - 

Of the particular dodrines contained in Dr 
Reid's Inquiry, I do not think it neceffary here 
to attempt any abftract ; nor indeed do his {pe- 
culations (conducted as they were in ftricl: con- 
formity to the rules of inductive philofophizing) 
afford a fubject for the fame fpecies of rapid out- 
line, which is fo ufeful in facilitating the fludy 
of a merely hypothetical theory. Their great 
object was to record and to claffify the pheno- 
mena which the operations of the human mind 
prefent to thofe who reflect carefully on the fub- 
jects of their confcioufnefs ; and of fuch a hifto- 



ry, it is manifeft, that no abridgment could be 
offered with advantage. Some reflections on the 
peculiar plan adopted by the Author, and on the 
general fcope of his refearches in this depart- 
ment of fcience, will afterwards find a more con- 
venient place, when I ihall have finifhed my ac- 
count of his fubfequent publications. 

The idea of profecuting the ftudy of the hu- 
man mind, on a plan analogous to that which 
had been fo fuccefsfully adopted in phylics by 
the followers of Lord Bacon, if not firfl concei- 
ved by Dr Reid, was at leaft firfl carried fuc- 
cefsfully into execution in his writings. An 
attempt had long before been announced by Mr 
Hume, in the title-page of his Treatife of .Hu- 
man Nature, to introduce the experimental me^ 
thod of reafoning into moral fubjects ; and fome 
admirable remarks are made in the introduction 
to that work, on the errors into which his pre- 
deceflbrs had been betrayed by the fpirit of hy- 
pOthefis ; and yet it is now very generally ad- 
mitted, that the whole of his own fyftem refts on 
a principle for which there is no evidence but 
the authority of philofophers ; and it is certain, 
that in no part of it has he aimed to invefligate 



by a fyftematical analyfis, thofe general princi- 
ples of our conftitution which can alone afford a 
fynthetical explanation of its complicated phe- 

I have often been difpofed to think, that Mr 
Hume's inattention to thofe rules of philofophi- 
•zing which it was his profeffed intention to ex- 
emplify, was owing in part to fome indiftinclnefs 
in his notions concerning their import. It does 
not appear, that, in the earlier part of his flu- 
dies, he had paid much attention to the mo- 
dels of invefligation exhibited in the writings 
of Newton and of his fucceffors : and that 
he was by no means aware of the extraordi- 
nary merits of Bacon as a philofopher, nor of 
the influence which his writings have had on the 
fubfequent progrefs of phyfical difcovery, is de~ 
monftrated by the cold and qualified encomium 
which is bellowed on his genius, in one of the 
moll elaborate paffages of the Hiftory of Eng- 

In thefe refpecls, Dr Re id poffeffed import- 
ant advantages ; familiarized, from his early 
years, to thofe experimental inquiries, which, in 



the courfe of the two lafl centuries, have exalt- 
ed Natural Philofophy to the dignity of a 
fcience ; and determined ftrongly, by the pecu- 
liar bent of his genius, to connect every ftep in 
the progrefs of difcovery with the hiltory of the 
human mind. The influence of the general 
views opened in the Novum Organon, may be 
traced in almoft every page of his writings ; 
and, indeed, the circumftance by which thefe 
are fo ftrongly and characleriftically diftin- 
guifhed, is, that they exhibit the firil fyfte- 
matical attempt to exemplify, in the fiudy 
of human nature, the fame plan of inveftiga- 
tion which conducted Newton to the proper- 
ties of light, and to the law of gravitation. It is 
from a fteady adherence to this plan, and not 
from the fuperiority of his inventive powers, 
that he claims to himfelf any merit as a philofo- 
pher • and he feems even willing (with a modefty 
approaching to a fault) to abandon the praife of 
what is commonly called genius, to the authors of 
the fyftems which he was anxious to refute. " It 
" is genius,", he obferves in one paffage, " and 
" not the want of it, that adulterates philofo- 
u phy, and fills it with error and falfe theory. A 

<S/ creative 


f { creative imagination difdains the mean offices 
" of digging for a foundation, of removing rub- 
" bifh, and carrying materials : leaving thefe 
" fervile employments to the drudges in fcience, 
" it plans a defign, and raifes a fabric. Inven- 
" tion fupplies materials where they are want- 
" ing, and fancy adds colouring, and every be- 
" fitting ornament. The work pleafes the eye, 
" and wants nothing but folidity and a good 
*J foundation. It feems even to vie with the 
i( works of nature, till fome fucceeding archi- 
" tect blows it into ruins, and builds as goodly 
" a fabric of his own in its place." 

" §uccefs in an inquiry of this kind," he ob- 
ferves farther, " it is not in human power to com- 
'■' mand ; but perhaps it is poffible, by caution 
" and humility, to avoid error and deluiion. 
" The labyrinth may be too intricate, and the 
" thread too fine, to be traced through all its 
" windings ; but, if we flop where we can trace 
" it no farther, and fecure the ground we have 
" gained, there is no harm done ; a quicker 
" eye may in time trace it farther." 

The unafTuming language with which Dr 
Re id endeavours to remove the prejudices natu* 



rally excited by a new attempt to philosophize 
on fo unpromifing, and hitherto fo ungrateful "a 
fubject, recalls to our recollection thofe paffages 
in which Lord Bacon — filled as his own imagi- 
nation was with the future grandeur of the fa- 
bric founded by his hand — befpeaks the indul- 
gence of his readers, for an enterprise appa- 
rently fo hopelefs and prefumptuous. The apo- 
logy he offers for himfelf, when compared with 
the height to which the Structure of phylical 
knowledge has Since attained, may perhaps have 
fame effect in attracting a more general attention 
to purfuits Hill more immediately interefting to 
mankind ; and, at any rate, it forms the beSt 
comment on the prophetic fuggeftions in which 
Dr Reid occafionally indulges himfelf concern- «. 
ing the future progrefs of moral fpeculation. 

" Si homines per tanta annorum fpatia viam 
" veram inveniendi et colendi fcientias tenuif- 
'■ fent, nee tamen ulterius progredi potuiSTent, 
" audax procul dubio et temeraria foret opinio, 
" poffe rem in ulterius provehi. Quod Si in via 
" ipfa erratum fit, atque hominum opera in iis 
*' confumpta in quibus minime oportebat, fequi- 
" tur ex eo, non in rebus ipfis difncultatem oriri, 

" qttss 


" quce poteflatis noftrae non funt ; fed inintel- 
" lectu humano, ej usque ufu et applicatione, 
" quae res remediura et medicinam fufci- 

" pit*." " De nobis ipfis lilemus : de re 

" autem quae agitur,-petimus ; Ut homines earn 
" non opinionem, fed opus effe cogitent ; ac 
" pro certo habeant, non fectae nos alicujus, aut 
- placiti, fed utilitatis et amplitudinis humanae 
" fundamenta moliri. Praeterea, ut bene fpe- 
" rent ; neque Inftaurationem noftram ut quid- 
" dam infinitum et ultra mortale fingant, et 
" animo concipiant ; quum re vera lit infiniti 
" erroris finis et terminus legitimus f ."" • 

The impreffion produced on the minds of fpe- 
;c ulative men, by the publication of Dr Re id's 
Inquiry, was fully as great as could be expecled 
from the nature of his undertaking. It was a 
work neither addreffed to the multitude, nor 
level to their comprehenfion ; and the freedom 
with which it canvaffed opinions fanctioned by 
the higheft authorities, was ill calculated to con- 
ciliate the favour of the learned. A few, however, 
habituated, like the author, to the analytical re- 


* Nov. Org. 94. 

j Inftaur. Mag. — Prsefat. 


fearehes of the Newtonian fchool, foon per- 
ceived the extent of his views, and recognifed 
jn his pages the genuine fpirit and language 
of inductive inveftigation. Among the mem- 
bers of this university, Mr Ferguson was the 
first to applaud Dr Reid's fuccefs ; warmly re- 
commending to his pupils a fteady profecution 
of the fame plan, as the only effectual method 
cf afcertaining the general principles of the hu- 
man frame ; and illuftrating happily, by his own 
profound and eloquent difquilitions, the applica- 
tion of fuch itudies, to the conduct of the under- 
standing, and to the great concerns of life. I re- 
collect, too, when I attended (about the year 
1771) the Lectures of the late Mr Russell, to 
have heard high encomiums on the Philofophy 
of Reid, in the courfe of thole' comprehensive dif- 
cuffions concerning the objects and the rules of 
experimental fcience, with which he fo agree- 
ably diversified the particular doctrines of phy- 
iies. — Nor must I omit this opportunity of pay- 
ing a tribute to the memory of my old friend, 
Mr Stevenson, then ProferTor of Logic ; whofe 
candid mind, at the age of feventy, gave a wel- 
come reception to a fyflem fubverfive of the 



theories which he had taught for forty years ; 
and whofe zeal for the advancement of know- 
ledge prompted him, when his career was al- 
mofl finifhed, to undertake the laborious talk of 
new-modelling that ufeful compilation of ele- 
mentary inftru&ion, to which a lingular diffi- 
dence of his own powers limited his literary 

It is with no common feelings of refpecl and 
of gratitude, that I now recal the names of 
thofe to whom I owe my firft attachment to 
thefe ftudieS) and the happinefs of a liberal oc- 
cupation fuperior to the more afpiring aims of a 
fervile ambition. 

From the Univernty of GlafgoW, Dr Re id's 
Inquiry received a ftill more fubftantial teflimo- 
ny of approbation ; the author having been in- 
vited, in 1763, by that learned body, to the 
profefTorfhip of Moral Philofophy, then vacant 
by the refigoation of Mr Smith. The prefer- 
ment was in many refpects advantageous ; af- 
fording an income confiderably greater than he 
enjoyed at Aberdeen ; and enabling him to con- 
centrate to his favourite objects, that attention 
which had been hitherto diffracted "by the mif- 

Vol. I, € cellaneoua 


cellaneous nature of his academical engage- 
ments. It was not, however, without reluctance, 
that he confented to tear himfelf from a fpot 
where he had fo long been fattening his roots ; 
and, much as he loved the fociety in which he 
pafTed the remainder of his days, I am doubtful 
if, in his mind, it compenfated the facrifice of 
earlier habits and connections. 

Abltracting from the charm of local attach- 
ment, the Univerfity of Glafgow, at the time 
when Dr Reid was adopted as one of its mem- 
bers, prefented ftrong attractions to reconcile him 
to his change of htuation. Robert Simson, 
the great reftorer of ancient geometry, was Hill 
alive ; and, although far advanced in years, pre- 
ferred unimpaired his ardour in ftudy, his reliih 
for focial relaxation, and his amuling iingulari- 
ties of humour. Dr Moor combined with a 
gaiety and a levity foreign to this climate, the 
profound attainments of a fcholar and of a ma- 
thematician.' In Dr Black, to whofe fortunate 
genius a new world of fcience had juft opened, 
Reid acknowledged an initructor and a guide j 
and met a iimplicity of manners congenial to his 
own. The Wilsons (both father and fon) were 



formed to attach his heart by the fimilarity of 
their fciehtific purfuits, and an entire fympathy 
with his views and fentiments. Nor was he lefa 
delighted with the good-humoured oppofition 
which his opinions never failed to encounter in 
the acutenefs of Millar, — then in the vigour of 
youthful genius, and warm from the leffons of 
a different fchool. Dr Leechman, the friend 
and biographer of Hutches on, was the"* official 
head of the College \ and added the weight of 
a venerable name to the reputation of a commu- 
nity, which he had once aolorned in a more ac- 
tive ftation *. 

Animated by the zeal of fuch afibeiates, and 
by the bufy fcenes which his new refidence pre- 
fented in every department of ufeful induftry, 
Dr Reid entered on his functions at Glafgow, 
with an ardour not common at the period of 
life, which he had now attained. His refearches 
concerning the human mind, and the principles 
of morals, which had occupied but an inconli- 
derabie fpace in the wide circle of fcience, al- 
lotted to him by his former office, were ex- 
tended and methodifed in a courfe, which em- 

e cl ployed 


* Note C, 


ployed five hours every week, during fix months 
of the year : the example of his illuftrious pre- 
decefTor, and the prevailing topics of converfa- 
tion around him, occalionally turned his thoughts 
to commercial politics, and produced fome in- 
genious efTays on different queftions connected 
with trade, which were communicated to a pri- 
vate fociety of his academical friends : his ear- 
ly paffion for the mathematical fciences was re- 
vived by the converfation of Sims on, Moor, 
and the Wilsons 5 and, at the age of fifty-five, 
he attended the lectures of Black* with a juve- 
nile curiofity and enthufiafm. 

As the fubftance of Dr Re id's lectures at 
Glafgow (at lead of that part of them which 
was moft important and original) has been fince 
given to the public in a more improved form, it 
is unneceflary for me to enlarge on the plan 
which he followed in the difcharge of his of- 
ficial duties. I fhall therefore only obferve, that 
b elide his Speculations on the Intellectual and 
Active Powers of Man, and a Syflem of Practi- 
cal Ethics, his courfe comprehended fome gene- 
ral views with refpect to Natural Jurifprudence, 
and the fundamental principles of Politics. A 

- few 


few lectures on Rhetoric, which were read, at 
a feparate hour, to a more advanced clafs of 
ftudents, formed a voluntary addition to the ap- 
propriate functions of his office, to which, it is 
probable, he was prompted, rather by a wifh to 
fupply what was then a deficiency in the efta- 
blifhed courfe of education, than by any predi- 
lection for a branch of ftudy fo foreign to his 
ordinary purfuits. 

The merits of Dr Reid, as^a public teacher, 
were derived chiefly from that rich fund of ori- 
ginal and instructive philofophy which is to be 
found in his writings ; and from his unwearied 
affiduity in inculcating principles which he con- 
ceived to be of eifential importance to human 
happinefs. In his elocution and mode of in- 
ftruction, there was nothing peculiarly attractive. 
He feldom, if ever, indulged himfelf in the 
warmth of extempore difcourfe ; nor was his 
manner of reading calculated to increafe the ef- 
fect of what he had committed to writing. Such, 
however, was the fimplicity and perjpicuity of 
his ftyle ; fuch the gravity and authority of his 
character ; and fuch the general intereft of his 
young hearers in the doctrines which he taught, 

c 3 that 


that by the numerous andiences to which his 
inftructions were addreffed, he was heard uni- 
formly with the moft filent and refpectful at- 
tention. On this fubjecl:, I fpeak from perfonal 
knowledge ; haying had the good fortune, du- 
ring a considerable part of winter 1772, to be 
one of his pupils. 

It does not appear to me, from what I am 
now able to recollect, of the order which he 
obferved in treating the different parts of his 
fubjecl, that he had laid much ftrefs on fy- 
ftematical arrangement. It is probable, that 
he availed himfelf of whatever materials his 
private inquiries afforded, for his academical 
compolitjons ; without aiming at the merit of 
combining them into a whole, by a comprehen- 
iive and regular defign \ — an undertaking, tp 
which, if I am not miftaken, the eftabliined 
forms of his univerfity, confecrated by long 
euflcm, would have prefented fome obftacles. 
One thing is certain, that neither he nor his im- 
mediate predecelfor ever publifhed any general 
profpeclus of their refpective plans ; nor any 
hesids. or outlines to affiit their ftudents in tracing 



the trains of thought which fuggefted their va- 
rious tranlitions. 

The intereft, however, excited by fuch de- 
tails as thefe, even if it were in my power to 
render them more full and fatisfactory, mult ne- 
ceffarily be temporary and local ; and I there- 
fore haften to obfervations of a more general 
nature, on the diftinguifhing characteriftics of 
Dr Reid's philofophical genius, and on the fpi- 
rit and fcope of thofe refearches which he has 
bequeathed to pofterity, concerning the pheno- 
mena and laws of the human mind. In men- 
tioning his firft performance on this fubject, I 
have already anticipated a few remarks which 
are equally applicable to his fubfequent publi- 
cations ; but. the hints then fuggefted were too 
flight, to place in fo ilrong a light as I could 
wifh, the peculiarities of that mode of inveiti- 
gation, which it was the great object of his 
writings to recommend and to exemplify. His 
own anxiety, to neglect nothing that might con- 
tribute to its farther illuftration, induced him, 
while his health and faculties were yet entire, 
to withdraw from his public labours ; and to 
devote himfelf, with an undivided attention, to 

c 4 3 


a talk of more extenfive and permanent utility. 
It was in the year 1781 that he carried this de-, 
fign into execution, at a .period of life (for he 
was then upwards of feventy) when the infir- 
mities of age might be fuppofed to account fuf- 
ficiently for his retreat ; but when, in fad, nei- 
ther the vigour of his mind nor of his body 
feemed to have fuffered any injury from time. 
The works which he published not many years 
afterwards, afford a fufficient proof of the af- 
liduity with which he had availed himfelf of 
his literary leifure ; his TLJfays on the Intellec- 
tual Powers of Man appearing in 1785 ; and 
thole on the Active Powers in 1788. 

As thefe two performances are, both of them, 
parts of one great work, to which his Inquiry 
into the Human Mind may be regarded as the 
Introduction, I have referred for this place 
whatever critical reflections I have to offer on 
his merits as an Author ; conceiving that they 
would be more likely to produce their intended 
effecl, when prefented at once in a connected 
form, than if interfperfed, according to a chro- 
nological order, with the details of a biogra- 
phical narrative. 



Obfervations on the Spirit .and Scope ofDr Reid's 

I Have already obferved, that the diftinguifh- 
ing feature of Dr Reid's Philofophy, is the 
fyftematical fteadinefs, with which he has adhe- 
red in his inquiries, to that plan of inv^eftigation 
which is delineated in the Novum Organon, and 
which has been fo happily exemplified in phy- 
fics by Sir Isaac Newton and his followers. To 
recommend this plan as the only effectual me- 
thod of enlarging our knowledge of nature, was 
the favourite aim of all his ftudies, and a topic 
on which he thought he could not enlarge too 
much, in converting or correfponding with his 
younger friends. In a letter to Dr Gregory, 
which I have perufed, he particularly congratu- 
lates him, upon- his acquaintance with Lord Ba- 
con's works , adding, " I am very apt to mea- 

" fure 


" fure a man's underflanding, "by the opinion he 
(i entertains of that author." 

It were perhaps to be wifhed, that he had ta- 
ken a little more pains to illuflrate the funda- 
mental rules of that, logic, the value of which 
he eftimated fo highly ; more efpecially, to point 
out the modifications with wjhich it is applicable 
to the fcience of mind. Many important hints, 
indeed, connected with this fubject, may be col- 
lected from different parts of his writings \ but 
I am inclined to think, that a more ample dif- 
cuffion of it in a preliminary diflertation, might 
have thrown light on the fcope of many of his 
refearches, and obviated fome of the moft plau- 
fible objections which have been Hated to his 

It is not, however, my intention at prefent, to' 
attempt to fupply a dejideratum of fo great a 
magnitude ; — an undertaking which, I truft, 
will find a more convenient place, in the farther 
profecution of thofe fpeculations with refpecl to 
the Intellectual Powers which I have already 
fubmitted to the public. The detached remarks 
which follow, are offered merely as a fupple- 
ment t;o what I have Hated concerning the na- 

OF THOMAS REID, D. D. xlill 

tare and object of this branch of ftudy, in the 
Introduction to the Philofophy of the Human 

The influence of Bacon's genius on the fubfe- 
quent progrefs of phyfical difcovery, has been 
feldom fairly appreciated ; by fome writers al- 
raoft entirely overlooked ; and by others confi- 
dered as the fole caufe of the reformation in 
fcience which has lince taken place. Of thefe 
two extremes, the latter certainly is the leaft 
wide of the truth ; for, in the whole hiflory of 
letters, no other individual can be mentioned, 
whofe exertions have had fo indifputable an ef- 
fect in forwarding the intellectual progrefs of 
mankind. On the other hand, it mull be ac- 
knowledged, that before the aera when Bacon 
appeared, various philofophers in different parts 
of Europe had flruck into the right path ; and it 
may perhaps be doubted, whether any one im- 
portant rule with refpecl to the true method of 
invefligation be contained in his works, of which 
no hint can be traced in thofe of his predecefTors. 
His great merit lay in concentrating their feeble 
and fcattered lights ; — - fixing the attention 
of philofophers on the diftipguifhing charac- 



.teriftics of true and of falfe fcience, by a feli- 
city of illuftration peculiar to himfelf, feconded 
by the commanding powers of a bold and figura- 
tive eloquence. The method of inveftigation 
which he recommended had been previoufly fol- 
lowed in every inftance, in which any folid dif- 
covery had been made with refpecl to the laws 
of nature ; but it had been followed accidental- 
ly, and without any regular, preconceived de- 
lign ;, and it was referved for him to reduce to 
rule and method what others had effected, either 
fortuitouily, or from fome momentary glimpfe 
of the truth. It is juftly obferved by Br Re id, 
that " the man who firft difcovered that cold 
" freezes water, and that heat turns it into va- 
" pour, proceeded on the fame general prin- 
" ciple by which Newton difcovered the law 
" of gravitation and the properties of light. 
*' His Regulte Philofophandi are maxims of com- 
6t mon fenfe, and are pradlifed every day in corn- 
'* mon life ; and he who philofophizes by other 
" rules, either concerning the material fyftem. 
* l or concerning the mind, miftakes his aim." 

Thefe remarks are not intended to detract 
from the juft glory of Bacon \ for they apply to 



all thofe, without exception, who have fyfterna- 
tized the principles of any of the arts. Indeed, 
they apply lefs forcibly to Him, than to any 
other philofopher wkofe fludies have been di- 
rected to objects analogous to his ; inafmuch as 
we know of no art, of which the rules have 
been reduced fuccefsfully into a didactic form, 
when the art itfelf was as much in infancy as 
experimental philofophy was when Bacon wrote. 
— Nor muft it be fuppofed, that the utility was 
fmall of thus attempting to fyflematize the ac- 
cidental procefTes of unenlightened ingenuity, 
and to give to the noblefr exertions of Human 
Reafon, the fame advantages of Scientific Me- 
thod, which have contributed fo much to en- 
fure the fuccefs of genius in purfuits of inferior 
importance. The very philofophical motto 
which Reynolds has fo happily prefixed to his 
Academical Difcourfes, admits, on this occa- 
lion, of a itill more appropriate application : 
" Omnia fere quae prseceptis continentur ab inge- 
" niofis hominibus front ; fed cafu quodam ma ■ 
" gis quam fcientia. Ideoque dedrina et ani-< 
' madverfio adhibenda eft, ut ea quae inter dum 

" line 


" fine ratione nobis occurrunt, Temper in noftra 
" poteftate lint ; et quoties res poftulaverit, a 
" nobis ex praeparato adhibeantur." 

But although a few fuperior minds feem to 
have been in fome meafure predifpofed for that 
revolution in fcience, which Bacon contributed 
fo powerfully to accomplifh, the cafe was very 
different with the great majority of thofe who 
were then moll diltinguifhed for learning and 
talents. His views were plainly too advan- 
ced for the age in which he lived ; and, that 
he was fenlible of this himfelf, appears from 
thofe remarkable paffages, in which he ftyles 
himfelf, " The fervant of pofterity," and " be- 
" queaths his fame to future times." — Hobbes, 
who in his early youth, had enjoyed his friend- 
fliip, fpeaks, a conliderable time after Bacon's 
death, of experimental philofophy, in terms of 
contempt \ influenced probably, not a little, by 
the tendency he perceived in the inductive me- 
thod of inquiry, to undermine the foundations of 
that fabric of fcepticifm which it was the great 
object of his labours to rear. Nay, even during 
the courfe of the lalt century, it has been lefs- 
from Bacon's own (peculations, than from the 



examples of found inveftigation exhibited by a 
few eminent men, who profeiTed to follow him 
as their guide, that the practical fpirit of his 
writings has been caught by the multitude of 
phyfical Experimentalifts over Europe ; — truth 
and good fenfe defcending gradually, in this as 
in other inftances, by the force of imitation and 
of early habit, from the higher orders of intel- 
lect to the lower. In fome parts of the Conti- 
nent, more efpecially, the circulation of Bacon's 
philofophical works has been furprilingly flow. 
It is doubtful, whether Des Cartes . himfelf 
ever perufed them ; and, as late as the year 
1759, if we may credit Montucla, they were 
very little known in France. The introductory 
difcourfe prefixed by D'Alembert to the En- 
cyclopedic, nrft recommended them, in that coun- 
try, to general attention. 

The change which has taken place, during 
the two laft centuries, in the plan of phyfical 
refearch, and the fuccefs which has fo remark- 
ably attended it, could not fail to fuggeft an idea, 
that fomething analogous might probably be 
accomplifhed at a future period, with refpect to 



the phenomena of the intellectual world.. And 
accordingly, various hints of this kind may be 
traced in different authors, fince the sera of 
Newton's difcoveries. A memorable inftance 
occurs in the prediction with which that great 
man concludes his Optics ; — " That if Natural 
" Philofophy, in all its parts, by purfuing the 
" inductive method, fhall at length be per- 
" fedted, the bounds of Moral Philofophy will 
" alfo be enlarged." Similar remarks may be 
found in other publications ; particularly in 
Mr Hume's Treatife of Human Nature, where 
the fubject is enlarged on with much in- 
genuity. As far, however, as I am able to 
judge, Dr Re id was the firft who conceived 
juftly and clearly the analogy between thefe two 
different branches of human knowledge ; de- 
fining with precifion the diftinct provinces of 
Obfervation and of Reflection, in furnifhing the 
data of all our reafonings concerning Matter and 
Mind \ and demonnrating the neceflity of a care- 
ful feparation between the phenomena which 
they refpectively exhibit, while we adhere to 
the fame mode of philofophizing in invefli- 
gating the laws of both. 



That fo many philofophers ihould have thus 
miffed their aim-, in profecuting the ftiidy of 
the Human Mind, will appear the lefs fur- 
priiing, when we coniider, in how many difficul- 
ties, peculiar to itfelf, this fcience is involved. 
It is fufficient at prefent to mention thole 
which arife, — from the metaphorical origin of 
all the words which exprefs the intellectual phe- 
nomena ; — from the fubtle and fugitive nature of 
the objects of our reafonings ; — from the habits of 
inattention we acquire, in early life, to the fub - 
jects of our confcioufnefs ; — and from the preju- 
dices which early impreiTions and affociations cre- 
ate to warp our opinions. It mult be remember- 
ed, too, that in the feience of mind (fo imper- 
fectly are its logical rules as yet underftood !) 
we have not the fame checks on the abufes of 
our reafoning powers, which ferve to guard us 
againlt error in our other refearches. In pnyfics, 
a fpeculative miftake is abandoned, when con- 
tradicted by facts which itrike- the fenfes. In 
mathematics, an abfurd or inconfiltent con- 
clulion is admitted as a demonltrative proof of a 
faulty hypothelis. But, in thofe inquiries which 
relate to the principles of human nature, the ab- 
fluidities and inconliltencies to which we are led 
d by 


by almoft all the fyftems hitherto propofed, in- 
Head of fuggefting corrections and improve- 
ments on thefe fyftems, have too frequently had 
the effect of producing fcepticifm with refpedt to 
all of them alike. How melancholy is the con- 
fefiion of Hume ! — " The jntenfe view of thefe 
" manifold contradictions and imperfections in 
" human reafon, has fo wrought upon me, and 
" heated my brain, that I am ready to reject all 
" belief and reafoning, and can look upon no 
" opinion even as more probable or likely than 
" another." 

Under thefe difcouragements to this branch 
pf ftudy, it affords <us fome comfort to reflect on 
the great number of important facts with re- 
fpect to the mind, which are fcattered in the 
writings of Philofophers. As the fubject of our 
inquiry here lies within our own breaft, a con- 
fiderable mixture of truth may be expected 
even in thofe fyftems which are moft erroneous ; 
not only becaufe a number of men can fcarcely 
be long impofed on by a hypothefis which is 
perfectly groundlefs, concerning the objects of 
their own confcioufnefs ; but becaufe it is ge- 
nerally by an alliance with truth and with the 



original principles of human nature, that pre- 
judices and affociations produce their effects,, 
Perhaps it may even be affirmed, that our pro- 
grefs in this refearch depends lefs on the degree 
of our induftry and invention, than on our fa- 
gacity and good fenfe in feparating old difco* 
veries from the errors which have been blended 
with them ; and on that candid and difpaffionate 
temper that may prevent us from being led 
aftray by the love of novelty^ or the affectation 
of Angularity. In this refpect, the fcience of 
mind poffeffes a very important advantage over 
that which relates to the laws of the material 
world. The former has been cultivated with 
more or lefs fuccefs in all ages and countries : 
the facts which ferve as the balls of the lat- 
ter have, with a very few exceptions, been 
collected during the courfe of the tv/o laft cen- 
turies. An obfervation iimilar to this is ap- 
plied to fyftems of Ethics by Mr Smith, in his 
account of the theory of Mandeville ; and 
the illuflration he gives of it may be extended 
with equal propriety to the fcience of mind in 
general. " A fyftem of Natural Philofophy," 
he remarks, " may appear very plaufible, and 
dl " be, 


" be, for a long time, very generally received 
" in the world, and yet have no foundation in 
" nature, nor any fort of refemblance to the 
" truth. But it is otherwife with fyflems of 
" Moral Philofophy. When a traveller gives an 
"^.account of fome diitant country, he may im- 
" pofe upon our credulity the moil groundlefs 
" and abfurd fictions- as the moil certain mat- 
" ters of facl: : But when a perfon pretends to 
" inform us of what paffes in our neighbour- 
" hood, and of the affairs of the very pariiTi we 
" live in, though here too, if we are fo care- 
" lefs as not to examine things with our own 
" eyes, he may deceive us in many refpec~ls j 
" yet the greatefl falfehoods which he impofes 
" on us mull bear fome refemblance to the truth, 
" and muft even have a conliderable mixture 
" of truth in them." 

Thefe confiderations demonllrate the efTential 
importance, in this branch of lludy, of forming, 
at the commencement of our inquiries, jufl no- 
tions of the criteria of true and falfe fcience, 
i and of the rules of pbilofophical inveftiga,tion. 
They demonllrate, at the fame time, that an at- 
tention to the rules of philofophizing, as.they are 



exemplified in the phyfical refearches of New- 
ton and his followers, although the belt of all 
preparations for an examination of the mental 
phenomena, is but one of the iteps necefiary to 
enfure our fuccefs. On an accurate coniparifon 
of the two fubjects, it might probably appear, 
that after this preliminary Hep has been gain- 
ed, the moll arduous part of the procefs ftill 
remains. One thing is certain, that it is not 
from any defect in the power of ratiocination 
or deduction, that our fpeculative errors chiefly 
arife : — a fact of which we have a decifive 
proof in the facility with which moil ftudents 
may be taught the mathematical and phyfical 
fciences, when compared with the difficulty of 
leading their minds to the truth on queftions of 
morals and politics. 

The logical rules which lay the foundation of 
found and ufeful conclusions concerning the laws 
of this internal world, although not altogether 
overlooked by Lord Bacon, were plainly not 
the principal object of his work • and what he 
has written on the fubject, confifts chiefly of de- 
tached hints dropt cafually in the courfe of 
other fpeculations. A comprehenfive View of 

d 3 the 


the fciences and arts dependent on the philofo r 
phy of the human mind, exhibiting the rela- 
tions which they bear to each other, and to the 
general fyflem of human knowledge, would 
form a natural and ufeful introduction to the 
fiudy of thefe logical principles ; but fuch a 
View remains flill a deftderatum, after all the ad- 
vances made towards it by Bacon and D'Alem- 
eert. Indeed, in the prefent improved ilate of 
things, much is wanting to complete and per- 
fect that more fimple part of their intellectual 
map which relates to the material univerfe. — 
Of the inconfiderable progrefs hitherto made 
towards a juft delineation of the Method to be 
purfued in fhidying the mental phenomena, no 
other evidence is neceffary than this, That the 
fources of error and falfe judgment, fo peculiarly 
connected, in confequence of the affociation of 
ideas, with ftudies in which our beft interefts are 
immediately and deeply concerned, have never 
yet been inveftigated with fuch accuracy, as to 
afford effectual aid to the iludent, in his attempts 
to counteract their influence. One of thefe 
fources alone, — that which arifes from the im- 
perfections of language, — furaifhes an exception 


OF TrfOMAS REJD, D. D. ly 

to the general remark. It attracted, fortunate- 
ly, the particular notice of Locke, whofe obfer- 
vations with refpecl: to it, eompofe, perhaps, the 
molt valuable part of his philofophical writings ; 
and, fince the time of Condillac, the fubjecl 
has been ftill more deeply analyzed by others^ 
Even on this article, much yet remains to be 
done ; but enough has been already accomplifh- 
ed to juftify the profound aphorifm in which 
Bacon pointed it out to the attention of his fol- 
lowers : — " Credunt homines rationem fuam 
" verbis imperare ; fed fit etiam ut verba vim 
** fuam fuper rationem retorqueant *." 

Into thefe logical difcuffions concerning the 
means of advancing the philofophy of human na- 
ture, Dr Reid has feldom entered ; and ftill more 
rarely has he indulged himfelf in tracing the 
numerous relations, by which this philofophy 
is connected with the practical bufinefs of life. 
But he has done what was ftill more effential at 

d 4 the 

* This paffage of Bacon forms the motto to a very in= 
genicrus and philofophical difTertation, (lately publiflied by 
M. Prevost of Geneva), entitled, " Des S'tgnes envifages 
" relativement a leur Influence fur la Formation des Idees" Pa? 
fis, an 8. 


the time he wrote : he has exemplified, with the 
happieft fuccefs, that method of investigation by 
which alone any folid progrefs can be made ; di- 
recting his inquiries to a fubject which forms a 
neceffary groundwork for the labours of his fuc- 
cerTors, — an analyfis of the various powers and 
principles belonging to our constitution. Of the 
importance of this undertaking, it is fufficient to 
obferve, that it Hands fomewhat, although I con- 
fefs not altogether, in the fame relation to the dif- 
ferent branches of intellectual and moral fcience, 
(fuch as grammar, rhetoric, logic, ethics, natu- 
ral theology, and politics), in which the anato- 
my of the human body Hands to the different 
branches of phyfiolqgy and pathology. And as 
a courfe of medical education naturally, or ra- 
ther neceffarily, begins with a general furvey of 
man's animal frame ; fo, I apprehend, that the 
proper, or rather the effential preparation for 
thofe Studies which regard our nobler concerns,, 
is an examination of the principles-which belong 
to man as an intelligent, active, focial, and mo- 
ral being. Nor does "the importance of fuch 
an analyfis reft here ; it exerts an influence 
-~/er all thofe fciences and arts which are con- 


nected with the material world ; and the phi- 
lofophy of Bacon itfelf, while it points out the 
road to phyfical truth, is but a branch of the 
philofophy of the human mind. 

The fubftance of thefe remarks is admirably 
expreffed by Mr Hume in the following paf- 
fage,-— allowances being made for a few trifling 
peculiarities of expreffion, borrowed from the 
theories which were prevalent at the time when 
he vrrote : " 'Tis evident, that all the fciences 
" have a relation, greater or lefs, to human na- 
" ture, and that, however wide any of them 
" may feem to run from it, they ftill return 
" back by one paffage or another. Even ma- 
" thematics, natural philofophy, and natural 
" religion, are in fome meafure dependent on 
" the fcience of man ; iince they lie under the 
" cognifance of men, and are judged of by 
v their powers and faculties. It is impoilible 
*? to tell what changes and improvements we 
" might make in thefe fciences, were we tho- 
" roughly acquainted with the extent and force 
" of human underftanding, and could explain 
'-' the nature of the ideas we employ, and of 
*-* the operations we perform in our reafonings. 

" If, 


*f If, therefore, the fciences of mathematics, 
" natural philofophy, and natural religion, have 
*' fuch a dependence on the knowledge of man, 
" what may be expected in the other fciences, 
" whofe connection with human nature is more 
a clofe and intimate ? The fole end of logic is 
" to explain the principles and operations of 
" our reafoning faculty, and the nature of our 
*' ideas : morals and criticifm regard our taftes 
* ( and fentiments : And politics confider men as 
" united in fociety, and dependent on each 
*' other. In thefe four fciences of logic, morals, 
" criticifm and politics, is comprehended almoft 
" every thing which it can any way import us 
" to be acquainted with, or which can tend eir 
" ther to the improvement or ornament of the 
4t . human mind* 

" Here, then, is the only expedient from 
" which we can hope for fnccefs in our philo- 
" fophical refearches; to leave the tedious, 
" lingering method, which we have hitherto 
" followed ; and, iuftead of taking, now and 
" then, a caftle or village on the frontier, to 
** march up directly to the capital or centre of 
(C t)iefe fciences, to human nature itfelf; which 

" being 


c '* being once mailers of, we may every where 
" elfe hope for an eafy victory. From this fta- 
«* tion, we may extend our conquefts over all 
*' thofe fciences which more intimately concern 
" human life, and may afterwards proceed at 
" leifure to difcover more fully thofe which 
" are the objects of pure curiofity. There is no 
" queftion of importance, whofe decifion is not 
" comprized in the fcience of man ', and there 
*' is none which can be decided with any cer-« 
" tainty, before we become acquainted with 
" ttyat fcience." 

To prepare the way for the accompli£hment 
of the delign fo forcibly recommended in the 
foregoing quotation, by exemplifying, in an ana- 
lyfis of our moft important intellectual and ac- 
tive principles, the only method of carrying it 
fuccefsfully into execution, was the great ob- 
ject of Dr Re id, in all his various philofo- 
phical publications. In examining thefe prin- 
ciples, he had chiefly in view a vindication of 
thofe fundamental laws of belief which form 
the groundwork of human knowledge, againft 
the attacks made on their authority in fome 
modern fyftems of fcepticifm j leaving to his 



fuccefibrs the more agreeable talk of applying the 
philofophy of the mind to its practical ufes. On 
the analyjis and claffification of our powers, 
which he has propofed, much room for improve- 
ment mult have been left in fo vaft an underta- 
king ; but imperfections of this kind do not ne- 
cefiarily affect the juftnefs of his conclusions, 
eveji where they may fuggefl to future inqui- 
rers the advantages of a Ampler arrangement, 
and a more definite phrafeology. Nor mull it 
be forgotten, that, in confequence of the plan 
he has followed, the miltakes which may be de- 
tected in particular parts of his works, imply no 
fuch weaknefs in the fabric he has reared, as 
might have been juftly apprehended, had he 
prefented a connected fyltem founded on gra- 
tuitous hypothefes, or on arbitrary definitions. 
The detections, on the contrary, of his occafion- 
al errors, may be expected, from the invariable 
confiftency and harmony of truth, to throw new 
lights on thofe parts of his work, where his in- 
quiries have been more fuccefsful ; as the cor- 
rection of a particular miltatement in an authen- 
tic hiltory, is often found, by completing an 
imperfect link, or reconciling a feeming contra- 


diction, to difpel the doubts which hung over 
the moll faithful and accurate details of the nar- 

In Dr Reid's firft performance, he confined 
himfelf entirely to the five fenfes, and the prin- 
ciples of our nature necefTariiy connected with 
them ; referving the further profecution of the 
fubject for a future period. At that time, indeed, 
he feems to have thought, that a more comprehen- 
five examination of the mind was an enterprife 
too great for one individual. " The powers," 
he obferves, " of memory, of imagination, of 
" tafte, of reafoning, of moral perception, the 
" will, the paffions, the affections, and all the 
11 active powers of the foul, prefent a boundlefs 
" field of philofophical difquifition, which the 
" author of this Inquiry is far from thinking 
" himfelf able to explore with accuracy. Ma- 
" ny authors of ingenuity, ancient and modern, 
" have made incurlions into this vaft territory, 
" and have communicated ufeful obfervations ; 
" but there is reafon to believe, that thofe 
" who have pretended to give us a map of the 
" whole, have fatisfied themfelves with a very 
" inaccurate and incomplete furvey. f£ Gali- 

" LEO 


44 Leo had attempted a complete fyftem of na- 
" tural philofophy, he had probably done little 
" fervice to mankind ; but, by confining him- 
" felf to what was within his o«mprehenfion, 
" he laid the foundation of a fyftem of know- 
9 ledge, which rifes by degrees, and does ho- 
" nour to the human underftanding. Newton, 
" building upon this foundation, and in like 
" manner, confining his inquiries to the law of 
" gravitation, and the properties of light, per- 
" formed wonders. If he had attempted a great 
" deal more, he had done a great deal lefs, and 
" perhaps nothing at all. Ambitious of follow- 
" ing fuch great examples, with unequal fteps, 
" alas ! and unequal force, we have attempted 
" an inquiry into one little corner only, of the 
" human mind ; that corner which feems to be 
** moll expofed to vulgar obfervation, and to be 
" moll ealily comprehended \ and yet, if we 
" have delineated it ' juflly, it mull be acknow- 
" ledged, that the accounts heretofore given of 
" it were very lame, and wide of the truth. " 

From thefe obfervations, when compared with 
the magnitude of the work which the author 
lived to execute, there is fome ground for fup- 



poling, that, in the progrefs of his refearches*, 
he became more and more fenfible of the mu- 
tual connection and dependence which exifts 
among the conclufions we form concerning the 
various principles of human nature ; even con- 
cerning thofe which feem, on a fuperficial view, 
to have the moll remote relation to each other : 
And it was fortunate for the world, that, in this 
refped:, he was induced to extend his views fo 
far beyond the limits of his original defign. His 
examination, indeed, of the powers of external 
perception, and of the queltions immediately 
connected with them, bears marks of a frill more 
minute diligence and accuracy than appear in 
fome of his ipeculations concerning the other 
parts of our frame ; and what he has written on 
the former fubjecl:, in his Inquiry into the IIu- 
man Mind, is evidently more highly flnifhed 
both in matter and form, than the volumes 
which he publifhed in his more advanced years. 
The value, however, of thefe is ineitimable to 
future adventurers in the fame arduous underta- 
king ; not only, in confequence of the aids they 
furnifh as a rough draught of the field to* be 
examined, but, by the example they exhibit 

. - of 


of -a method of inveftigation on fuch fubjedls, hi- 
therto very imperfectly underltood by philofo- 
pliers. It is by the originality of this method, fo 
fyftematically purfued in all his refearches, ftill 
more than by the importance of his particular 
conclufions, that he Hands fo confpicuoufly di- 
ftinguifhed among thofe who have hitherto pro- 
fecuted analytically the ftudy of Man. 

I have heard it fometimes mentioned, as a fub- 
ject of regret, that the writers who have ^applied 
themfelves to this branch of knowledge, have, 
in general, aimed at a great deal more than it 
was poffible to accomplifh ; extending their re- 
fearches to all the different parts of our confti- 
tution, while a long life might be well employ- 
ed in examining and defcribing the phenomena 
connected with any one particular faculty. Dr 
Reid, in a paflage already quoted from his In- 
quiry, might have been fuppofed to give fome 
countenance to this opinion \ if his own fubfe- 
quent labours did not fo ilrongly fandtion the 
pradice in queltion. The truth, I apprehend, 
is, That fuch detached refearches concerning 
the human mind, can feldom be attempted with 



much hope of fuccefs ; and that thofe who have 
recommended them, have not attended mill-, 
ciently to the circumftances which fo remarkably 
diftinguiih this ftudy, from that which has for 
its object the j philofophy of the material world. 
A few remarks in illuftration of this propoiition 
feem to me to be necefTary, in order to juflify 
the reafbnablenefs of Dr Reid's undertaking ; 
and they will be found to apply with (till great- 
er force, to the labours of fuch, as may wiih to 
avail themfelves of a limilar analyfls in explain- 
ing the varieties of human genius and character, 
or in developing the latent capacities of the 
youthful mind. 

One confideration of a more general nature 
is, in the flril place, worthy of notice ; that in 
the infancy of every fcience, the grand and fun- 
damental J<?/z<i<?r£/z/7# is a bold and comprehenflve 
Outline ; — fo me what for the fame reafon, that, in 
the cultivation of an extenfive country, forefts 
muft be cleared, and wilderneffes reclaimed, be- 
fore the limits of private property are fixed with 
accuracy ; and long before the period, when the 
diviiions and fubdivifions of feparate poffeffions 
«? give 


give rife to the details of a- curious and refined 
huibandry. The fpeculations of Lord" Bacon 
embraced all the objects of human knowledge. 
Thofe of Newton and Boyle were confined to 
phyfics ; but included an aftonifhing range of 
the material univerfe. The labours of their 
fuccelTors in our own times; have been employ- 
ed with no lefs zeal, in purfuing thofe mote 
particular, but equally abftrufe investigations, 
in which They were unable to engage, for 
want of a fufficient ftock, both of fads and 
of general principles ; and which did not per- 
haps intereil their curiofity in any confiderable 

If thefe obfervations are allowed to hold to a 
certain extent with refpect, to all the fciences, 
they apply in a more peculiar manner to the 
lubjects treated of in Dr Reid's writings ; — 
fubjedts which are all fo intimately connected, 
that it may be doubted, if it. be poffible to in- 
veiligate any one completely, without fome ge- 
neral acquaintance, at leaft, with the reft. Even 
the theory of the Underftanding may receive, im- 
portant lights from an examination of the Ac- 
tive and the Moral powers \ the ftate of which n 


OF THGMAS RE ID, D. D*' lxvii 

in the mind of every individual, will be found 
to have a powerful influence on his intellectual 
character : — while, on the other hand, an accu- 
rate analyfis of the faculties of the Underfrand- 
ing, would probably go far to obviate the fcep- 
tical difficulties which have been ftarted con- 
cerning the Origin of our Moral Ideas. It ap= 
pears to me, therefore, that, whatever be the 
department of mental fcience that we propofe 
more particularly to cultivate, it is neceftary 
to begin with a furvey of human nature in all 
its various parts ; iludying thefe parts, how- 
ever, not fo much on their own account, as 
with a reference to the applications of which, 
our conclulions are fufceptible to our favourite 
purpofe. The refearches of Dr Reid, when con- 
fidered carefully in the relation which they bear 
to each other, afford numberlefs illuftrations of 
the truth of this remark. His leading delign 
was evidently to overthrow the modern fyftem 
of fcepticifm ; and at every fucceffive ftep of his 
progrefs, new and unexpected lights break in 
on his fundamental principles. 

It is, however, chiefly in their practical ap- 
plication to the conduct of the underftanding, 
e 2 and 


and the culture of the heart, that fuch partial 
views are likely to be dangerous ; for here, 
they tend not only to miflead our theoretical 
conclufions, but to counteract our improve- 
ment and happinefs. Of this I am fo fully 
convinced, that the moll faulty theories of hu- 
man nature, provided only they embrace the 
whole of it, appear to me lefs mifchievous in ' 
their probable effects, than thofe more accurate 
and microfcopical refearches which are habitu- 
ally confined to one particular corner of our 
conflitution. It is eafy to conceive, that where 
the attention is wholly engroffed with the intel- 
lectual powers, the moral principles will be in 
danger of running to wafte : and it is no lefs 
certain, on the other hand, that, by confining 
our care to the moral conflitution alone, we 
may fuffer the underftanding to remain un- 
der the influence of unhappy prejudices, and 
deftitute of thofe juft and enlightened views, 
without which the worthier!: difpofitions are of 
little ufe, either to ourfelves or to fociety. An 
exclufive attention to any one of the fubordi- 
nate parts of our frame, — to the culture of 
tafte, (for example), or of the argumentative 



powers, or even to the refinement of our moral 
fentiments and feelings, — muft be attended with 
a hazard proportionally greater. 

" In forming the human character," fays 
Bacon, in a paffage which Lord Bolingbroke 
has pronounced to be one of the fineft and deep- 
eft in his writings, " we muft not proceed, as a 
" ftatuary does in forming a ftatue, who works 
" fometimes on the face, fometimes on the limbs, 
" fometimes on the folds of the drapery ; but 
" we muft proceed (and it is in our power to 
" proceed) as Nature does in forming a flower, 
" or any other of her productions ; — me throws 
" out altogether, and at once, the whole fyilem 
41 of being, and the rudiments of all the parts. 
" Rudiment a par Hum Qmnium Jitnul park et pro- 
" duck*." 

Of this pafTage, fo ftrongly marked with Ba- 
con's capacious intellect, and fo richly adorned 
with his " philofophical fancy," I will not 
e 3 weaken 

* In the foregoing paragraph, I hive borrowed (with a 
vry trifling alteration) Lord BoLr^GBROKE's vvordsj in a 
fo. auriful pa. aphrafe on Bacon's remark. — See his Idea of 
& fatriot i\tng. 


weaken the impreffion by any comment ; and, 
indeed, to thofe who do not intuitively per- 
ceive its evidence, no comment would be ufe- 

In what I have hitherto faid of Dr Reid's 
fpeculations, I have confined myfelf to fuch ge- 
neral views of the fcope of his refearches, and 
of his mode of philofophizing, as feemed moll 
likely to facilitate the perufal of his works to 
thofe readers who have not been much conver- 
fant with thefe abftract- difquifitions. A flight 
review of fome of the more important and fun- 
damental objections which have been propofed 
to his doctrines, may, I hope, be ufeful as a far- 
ther preparation for the fame courfe of ftudy. 

Of thefe objections, the four following appear 
to me to be chiefly entitled to attention. 

i. That he has afTumed gratuitouily in all his 
reafonings, that theory concerning the human 
foul, which the fcheme of materialifm calls in 

2. That his views tend to damp the ardour of 
philofophical curiofity, by Hating as ultimate 
facts, phenomena which may be refolved into 
principles more fimple and 'general, 

3. That, 


3. That, by an unnecefiary multiplication of 
original or inftinc~tive principles, he has brought 
the fcience of mind into a ftate more perplexed 
and unfatisfactory, than that in which it was 
left by Locke and his fucceffors. 

4. That his philofophy, by fanctioning an ftp- 
peal from the deciiions of the learned to the 
voice of the multitude, is unfavourable to a fpi- 
rit of free inquiry, and lends additional liabi- 
lity to popular errors. 

1. With refpect to Dr Re id's fuppofed af- 
fumption of a doubtful hypothefis concerning 
the nature of the thinking and fentient prin- 
ciple, it is almoft fufficient for me to obferve, 
that the charge is directed againft that very 
point of his philofophy in which it is molt com- 
pletely invulnerable. The circumftance which 
peculiarly characterizes the inductive fcience of 
mind is, that it profefles to abftain from all fpe- 
culations concerning its nature and effence ; 
confining the attention entirely to phenomena, 
for which we have the evidence of confciouf- 
nefs, and to the laws by which thefe phenomena 
are regulated. In this refped, it differs equally, 
e 4 iii 


in its fcope, from the pneumatological difcuffions 
of the fchools ; and from the no lefs vilionary 
theories, fo loudly vaunted by the phyfiolo- 
gical metaphyficians of more modern times. 
Compared with the firft, it differs, as the in- 
quiries of the mechanical philofophers concerning 
the laws of moving bodies, differ from the dif- 
cuffions of the ancient fophifls concerning the 
existence and the nature of motion. Compared 
with the other, the difference is analogous to 
what exifts between the conclufions of Newton 
concerning the law of gravitation, and his query 
concerning the invifible ether of which he fup- 
pofed it might, poffibly, be the effect. The fa&s 
which this inductive fcience aims at afcertain- 
ing,-refl on their own proper evidence ; — an 
evidence unconnected with all thefe hypothefes, 
and which would not, in the fmalleft degree, be 
affected, although the truth of any one of them 
mould be fully eftablifhed. It is not, therefore, 
on account of its inconiiflency with any favou- 
rite opinions of my own, that I would oppofe 
the difquilitions either of fcholaftic pneumato- 
logy, or of phyfiological metaphyiics ; but be- 
caufe I coniider them as an idle wafte of time 


OF THOMAS REID, D. D. lxxiii 

and genius on qucftions where our conclufions 
can neither be verified nor overturned by an ap^ 
peal to experiment or obfervation. Sir Isaac 
Newton's query concerning the caufe of gravi- 
tation was certainly not inconjifient with his own 
difcoveries concerning its laws ; but what would 
have been the confequences to the world, if he 
had indulged himfelf in the profecution of hypo- 
thetical theories with refpect to the former, in- 
Head of directing his aftoniming powers to an in- 
vestigation of the latter ? 

That the general fpirit of Dr Reid's Philofo- 
phy is holtile to the conclufions of the Mate- 
rialift, is indeed a fact. : Not, however, becaufe 
his iyftem refts on the contrary hypothecs as a 
fundamental principle, but becaufe his inqui- 
ries have a powerful tendency to wean the 
understanding gradually from thofe obftinate af- 
fociations and prejudices, to which the common 
mechanical theories of mind owe all their plau- 
fibility. It is, in truth, much more from fuch 
examples of found refearch concerning the 
Laws of Thought, than from any direct meta- 
phyfical refutation, that a change is to be ex- 
pected in the opinions of thofe who have been 



accuftomed to confound together two clafies of 
phenomena, fo completely and efTentially dif- 
ferent. — But this view of the fubject does not 
belong to the prefent argument. 

It has been recommended of late, by a medical 
author of great reputation, to thofe who wifh to 
ftudy the human mind, to begin with preparing 
themfelves for the taik by the ftudy of anato- 
my. I muft confefs, I cannot perceive the advan- 
tages of this order of investigation ; as the anato- 
my of the body does not feem to me more like- 
ly to throw light on the philofophy of the mind, 
than an analyiis of the mind to throw light on 
the phyfiology of the body. To ascertain, in- 
deed, the general laws of their connexion from 
facts eftablifhed by obfervation or experiment, 
is a reafonable and moil interefting object of 
philofophical curioiity ; and in this inquiry, 
(which was long ago propofed and recommend- 
ed by Lord Bacon), a knowledge of the confti- 
tution both of mind and body is indifpenfably 
requisite j but even here, if we wifh to proceed 
on firm ground, the two claries of facts muft be 
kept completely diftinct : fo that neither of them 
may be warped or diftorted, in confequence of 



theories fuggefted by their fuppofed relations or 
analogies *. Thus, in many of the phenomena, 
connected with Cuflom and Habit, there is ample 
fcope for inveftigating general laws, both with 
refpecl to our mental and our corporeal frame ; 
but what light do we derive from fuch informa- 
tion concerning this part of our conftitution as is 
contained in the following ferttence -of Locke ? 
" Habits feem to be but trains of motion in the 
" animal fpirits, which, once fet a-going, conti- 
" nue in the fame fteps they had been ufed to, 
" which by often treading are worn into a 
" fmooth path." In like manner, the laws which 
regulate the connexion between the mind and our 
external organs, in the cafe of Perception, have 
furnimed a very fertile fubjeel of examination 
to fome of the bell of our modern philofophers ; 
but how impotent does the genius of Newton 
itfelf appear, when it attempts to moot the gulf 
which feparates the fenfible world, and the Ten - 
tient principle ? " Is not the fenforium of ani- 
f* mals," he afks in one of his queries, " the 
" place where the fentient fubftance is prefent, 

" and 

* Elements of the Philofophy of the Human Mind, pp. 1 1* 
12, 2d edit* 


" and to which the fenfible fpecies of things are 
" brought through the nerves and brain, that 
" they may be perceived by the mind prefent 
" in that place?" 

It ought to be remembered alfo, that this in- 
quiry, with refpect to the laws regulating the 
connexion between our bodily organization, and 
the phenomena fubjected to our own confciouf- 
nefs, is but one particular department of the 
philofophy of the mind ; and that there flill re- 
mains a wide and indeed boundlefs region, where 
all our data mull be obtained from our own men- 
tal operations. In examining; for inftance, the 
powers of judgment and reafoning, let any perfon 
of found underftanding, after perufing the obfer- 
vations of Bacon on the different clafles of our 
prejudices, or thofe of Locke on the abufe of 
words, turn his attention to the fpeculations of 
forne of our contemporary theorifts ; and he will 
at once perceive the diflinclion between the two 
modes of inveiligation which I wifh at prefent 
to contrail. " Reafoning," lays one of the 
moll ingenious, and original of thefe, " is that 
" operation of the fenforium, by which we ex- 
ci cite two or many tribes of ideas ; and then 

" re-excite 


" re-excite the ideas, in which they differ or 
" correfpond. If we determine this difference, 
u it is called Judgment ; if we in vain endea- 
" vour to determine it, it is called Doubting. — 
" If we re-excite the ideas in which they dif- 
" fer, it is called Diftinguifhing ; if we re-ex- 
11 ■ cite thofe in which- they correfpond, it is call- 
" ed Comparing # ." — In what acceptation the 
word idea is to be underftood in the foregoing 
paffage, may be learned from the following de- 
finition of the fame author : — " The word idea 
" has various meanings in the writers of me- 
" taphylic : It is here ufed limply for thofe no- 
" tions of external things, which our organs of 
" fenfe bring us acquainted with originally ; 
" and is defined, a contraction, or motion, or 
" configuration, of the fibres, which confhitute 
" the immediate organ of fenfe f." — Mr Hume, 
who was lefs of a phyfiologift than Dr Darw t in, 
has made ufe of a language by no means fo theo- 
retical and arbitrary \ but ftill widely removed 


* Zoonomia, vol. I. p. )8l. 3d edit. 
f Ibid. vol. i. pp. 11, 12. 


from the fimplicity and precifion efientially ne- 
cefiary in ftudies, where every thing depends on 
the cautious ufe of terms. ** Belief," according 
to him, is " a lively idea related to or afibciated 
" with a prefent impreffion ; Memory is the fa. 
" culty by which we repeat our impreflions, fo 
" as that they retain a confiderable degree of 
" their firft vivacity, and are fomewhat inter- 
te mediate betwixt an idea and an impreffion." 
According to the views of Dr Re id, the terms 
which exprefs the fimple powers of the mind, 
are confidered as unfufceptible of definition or 
explanation ; the words, Feeling, for example, 
Knowledge, Will, Doubt, Belief, being, in this 
refpect, on the fame footing with the words, 
Green or Scarlet, Sweet or Bitter. To the names 
of thefe mental operations, all men annex fome 
notions, more or lefs diftinct ; and the only way 
of conveying to them notions more correct, is 
by teaching them to exercife their own powers 
of reflection. The definitions quoted" from 
Hume and Darwin, even if they were more 
unexceptionable in point of phrafeology, would, 
for thefe reafons, be unphilofophical, as attempts 
to Amplify what is incapable of analyfis ; but, 



as they are actually ftated, they not only enve- 
lop truth in myftery, but lay a foundation, at 
tlie very outfet, for an erroneous theory. It is 
worth while to add, that of the two theories in 
queftion, that of Darwin, how inferior foever, 
in the efiimation of competent judges, as a phi- 
- iofophical work, is by far the bed calculated to 
impofe on a very wide circle of readers, by the 
mixture it exhibits of crude and vifionary me- 
taphyfics, with thofe important facts and conclu- 
lions which might be expected from the talents 
and 'experience of fuch a writer, in the prefent 
advanced (late of medical and phyiiological 
fcience. The queftions which have been hither- 
to confined to a few, prepared for fuch difcuf- 
nons by habits of philofophical Itudy, are thus 
fubmitted to the coniideration, — not only of the 
cultivated and enlightened minds, which adorn 
the medical profeflion, — but of the hal£ inform- 
ed multitude who follow the medical trade : 
Nor is it to be doubted, that many of thefe 
ivill give the author credit, upon fubjects of 
which they feel themfelves incompetent to 
judge, for the fame ability which he difplays 
within their own profeffional fphere. The hy- 


pothetical principles aCumed by Hume are 
intelligible to thofe only who are familiarized 
to the language of the fchools ; and his inge- 
nuity and elegance, captivating as they are to 
men of tafte and refinement, pofTefs flight at- 
tractions to the majority of fuch as are molt 
likely to be milled by his conclusions. 

After all, I do not apprehend that the phy- 
iiological theories concerning the mind, which 
have made fo much noife of late, will pro- 
duce a very lafting impreffion. The fplendour 
of Dr Darwin's accomplifhments could not fail 
to bellow a temporary importance on whatever 
opinions were fanclioned by his name \ as the 
chemical difcoveries which have immortalized 
that of Priestley, have, for a while, recalled 
from oblivion the reveries of Hartley. But, ab~ 
ftracting from thefe accidental inftances, in which 
human reafon feems to have held a retrograde 
courfe, there has certainly been, fince the time 
of Des Cartes, a continual, and, on the whole, 
a very remarkable approach to the inductive 
plan of ftudying human nature. We may trace 
this in the writings even of thofe who profefs 
to conlider thought merely as an agitation of the 

brain ; — - 


brain j — in the writings more particularly of 
Hume and of Helvetius ; both of whom, al- 
though they may have occasionally exprerTed 
themfelves in an unguarded manner concerning 
the nature of mind, have, in their molt ufeful 
and practical difquifitions, been prevented, by 
their own good fenfe, from blending any theory 
with refpect to the caufes of the intellectual phe- 
nomena with thehiftory of facts, or the inveftiga- 
tion of general laws. The authors who form the 
moil confpicuous exceptions to this gradual 
progrefs, confirt chiefly of men, whofe errors 
may be eaiily accounted for, by the prejudices 
connected with their circumfcribed habits of ob~ 
fervation and inquiry ; — of Phyliologifts, accuf- 
tomed to attend to that part alone of the human 
frame, which the knife of the Anatomift can lay 
open ; or of Chemifts, who enter on the analyfis 
of Thought, frefh from the decompolitions of the 
laboratory \ — carrying into the Theory of Mind 
itfelf (what Bacon expreffively calls) " the fmoke 
" and tarnifli of the furnace." Of the value of 
inch purfuits, none can think more highly than 
myfelf ; but I rauft be allowed to obferve, that the 
mod diftinguifhed pre-eminence in them does not 
f neceilarilv 


neceftarily imply a capacity of collected and ab- 
ftracted reflection, or an underftanding fuperior 
to the prejudices of early affociation, and the 
illufions of popular language. I will not go fo 
far as Cicero, when he afcribes to thofe who 
poffefs thefe advantages, a more than ordinary 
vigour of intellect. : " Magni eft ingenii revoca- 
" re mentem a fenjlbus, et cogitationem a confue- 
" tudine abducereT I would only claim for 
them, the merit of patient and cautious re- 
fearch ; and would exact from their antagonifts 
the fame qualifications *. 

In offering thefe remarks, I have no wifh to 
exalt any one branch of ufeful knowledge at the 
expence of another, but to combat prejudices 
equally fatal to the progrefs of them all. — With 
the fame view, I cannot help taking notice of a 
prevailing, but very miftaken idea, that the for- 
mation of a hypothetical fyftem is a ftronger proof 
of inventive genius, than the patient inveftiga- 
tion of Nature, in the way of induction. To 
form a fyftem, appears to the young and inex- 
perienced underftanding, a fpecies of creation ; 
to afcend flowly to general conclufions, from the 


* NotsD. 

OF THOMAS REIDj D, D, ixxxiii 

obfervation and comparifon of particular facts, 
is to comment fervilely on the works of another. 
No opinion, furely, can be more groundlefs. 
To fix on a few principles, or even on a imgle 
principle, as the foundation of a theory ; and, 
by an artful itatement of fuppofed facls, aided 
by a dexterous ufe of language, to give a plau- 
fible explanation, by means of it, of an immenfe 
number of phenomena ; is within the reach of 
molt men whole talents have been a little exer- 
cifed among the fubtilties cf the fchools : 
Whereas, to follow Nature through all her va- 
rieties with a quick yet an exact eye; — to record 
faithfully what fhe exhibits, and to record no- 
thing more ; — to trace, amidit the diverlity of 
her operations, the fimple and comprehenlive 
laws by which they are regulated, and fome- 
times to guefs at the beneficent purpofes to 
which they are iubfervient, — may be fafely pro- 
nounced to. be the higheft effort of a created in- 
telligence. And, accordingly, the number of 
ingenious theorifts has, in every age, been great ; 
that of found philofophers has been wonderful- 
ly fmall ; — or rather, they are only beginning 
now to have a glimpfe of their w T ay 5 in confe- 
f i quence 


quence of the combined lights furnifhed by their 

Des Cartes aimed at a complete fyftem of 
phyfics, deduced a priori from the abftract fug- 
geftions of his own reafon : Newton afpired 
no higher, than at a faithful " interpretation of 
" Nature," in a few of the more general laws 
which fhe prefents to our notice : And yet the 
intellectual power difplayed in the voluminous 
writings of the former vanifhes into nothing, 
when compared with what we may trace in a 
lingle page of the latter. On this occalion, a re- 
mark of Lord Bacon appears Angularly ap- 
pofite -, that " Alexander and Cjesar, though 
" they acted without the aid of magic or pro- 
" digy, performed exploits that are truly greater 
'*' than what Fable reports of King Arthur or 
" Amadis de Gaul." 

I fhall only add farther on this head, that the 
laft obfervation holds more ftriclly with refpecl; 
to the philofophy of the human mind, than any 
other branch of fcience ; for there is no fubjecl 
whatever, on which it is fo eafy to form theories 
calculated to impofe on the multitude ; and 
none, where the difcoverv of truth is attend- 


•ed with fo many difficulties. One great caufe of 
this is, the analogical or theoretical terms em- 
ployed in ordinary language to exprefs every 
thing relating either to our intellectual or active 
powers ; in confequence of which, fpecious ex- 
planations of the mofl myfterious phenomena 
may be given to fuperficial inquirers ; while, 
at the fame time, the labour of juft investigation 
is increafed to an incalculable degree. 

i. To allege, that in this circumfcription of 
the field of our inquiries concerning the mind., 
there is any tendency to reprefs a reafonable and 
philofophical curiofity, is a charge no lefs un- 
founded than the former ; inafmuch as every 
phyfical inquiry concerning the material world 
is circumfcribed by limits precifely analogous. 
In all cur inveiligations, whatever their fub- 
jeci may be, the bufinefs of philofophy is con- 
fined to a reference of particular facts to other 
facts more general ; and our molt fuccefsful re- 
fearches muft at length terminate in fome law 
of nature, of which no explanation can be given. 
— In its application to Dr Reid's writings, this 
objection has, I think, been more pointedly direct- 
ed againft his reafonings concerning the pro- 
/ 3 • ccfc 


cefs of nature in perception ; a part of his wri^ 
tings which (as it is of fundamental importance 
in his general fyilem) he has laboured with pe^ 
euliar care. The reiult is, indeed, by no means 
flattering to the pride of thofe theoriils, who pror- 
fefs to explain every thing ; for it amounts to 
an acknowledgment, that, after all the lights 
which anatomy and phyiiology fupply, the in- 
formation we obtain, by means of our fenfes, con- 
cerning the exiflence and the qualities of matter, 
is no lefs incomprehenfible to our faculties, than 
it appears to the moil illiterate peafant ; and that 
all we have gained, is a more precife and com- 
plete-acquaintance with fome particulars in our 
animal economy, — highly intereiling indeed 
when regarded in their proper light, as accef- 
lions'to our phyiical knowledge, but, coniidered 
in connexion with the philofophy of the mind, 
affording onlv a more accurate ilatement of the 
ailonifning phenomena which we would vainly 
endeavour to explain. This language has been 
charged, but moil unjuftly and ignorantly, with 
myjlicifm ; for the fame charge may be brought, 
with equal fairnefs ^againil all the moil import- 
ant discoveries in the fciences. It was in truth, 



the very objection urged againft Newton, when 
his adverfaries contended, that gravity was to be 
ranked with the occult qualities of the fchoolmen, 
till its mechanical caufe mould be affigned ; and 
the anfwer given to this objection by Sir Isaac 
Newton's commentator, Mr Maclaurin, may 
be literally applied, in the inftance before us, to 
the inductive philofophy of the human mind. 

•" The opponents of Newton, finding nothing 
" to object to his obfervations and reafonings, 
" pretended to find a refemblance between his 
" doctrines and the exploded tenets of the fcho- 
" laftic philofophy. They triumphed mightily 
" in treating gravity as an occult quality, be- 
" caufe be did not pretend to deduce this prin- 

" ciple fully from its caufe I know 

* l not that ever it was niade an objection to 
" the circulation of the blood, that there is 
" no fmall difficulty in accounting for it me- 
". chanically. They, too, who firfl extend- 
" ed gravity to air, vapour, and to all bodies 
" round the earth, had their praiie ; though 
" the caufe of gravity was as oVfeure as before ; 
" or rather appeared more myjlerious, after they 
M had fhewn, that there was no body found 
/4 - " near 


" near the earth, exempt from gravity, that 
" might be fuppofed to be its caufe. Why, 
" then, were his admirable difcoveries, by which 
" this principle was extended over the univerfe, 
" fo ill relifhed by fome philofophers ? The 
" truth is, he had, with great evidence, over- 
" thrown the boafted fchemes by which they 
" pretended to unravel all the Tnyfteries of Na- 
" ture ; and the philofophy he introduced, in 
" place of them, carrying with it a fincere con- 
" fefiion of our being far from a complete and 
" perfect knowledge of it, could not pleafe thofe 
" who had been accuftemed to imagine them- 
" felves poffefTed of the eternal reafons and pri- 
■f mary caufes of all things. 

" It was, however, no new thing that this phi- 
• cc lofophy mould meet with oppohtion. All the 
c< ufeful difcoveries that were made in former 
*i times, and particularly in the feventeenth cen- 
'* tury, had to nruggle with the prejudices of 
ei thofe who had acCuftomed themfelves, not fo 
<l much as to think but in a certain fyflematic 
it way ; who could not be prevailed on to 
" abandon their favourite fchemes, while they 
i( were able to imagine the leafc pretext for 

" continuing 


* continuing the difpute. Every art and talent. 
si was difplayed to fupport their falling caufe ; 
" no aid Teemed foreign to them that could in any 
" manner annoy their adverfary ; and Tuch of- 
" ten was their obftinacy, that truth was able to 
" make little progrefs, till they were fucceeded 
" by younger perfons, who had not fo ftrongly 
" imbibed their prejudices." 

Thefe excellent obfervations are not the lefs 
applicable to the fubjecl: now under confidera- 
tion, that the part of Dr Reid's writings which 
fuggefted the quotation, leads only to the cor- 
rection of an inveterate prejudice, not to any 
new general conclufion. It is probable, indeed, 
(now that the Ideal Theory has in a great mea- 
fure difappeared from our late metaphyseal 
fyltems), that thofe who have a pleafure in de- 
tracting from the merits of their predecefTors, 
may be difpofed to reprefent it as an idle walle 
of labour and ingenuity to have entered into a 
ferious refutation of a hypothecs at once gratui- 
tous and inconceivable. A different judgment, 
however, will be formed by fuch, as are ac- 
quainted with the extenfivo influence, which, 
from the earlieft accounts of fcience, this iingle 



prejudice has had in vitiating almoft e very- 
branch of the philofophy of the mind ; and who, 
at the fame time, recollect the names of the il- 
luftrious men, by whom, in more modern times, 
it has been adopted as an incontrovertible prin- 
ciple. It is fufficient for me to mention thofe 
of Berkeley, Hume, Locke, Clarke and New- 
ton. To the two nrrt of thefe, it has ferved as 
the bans of their fceptical conclulions, which 
feem indeed to follow 7 from it as neceflary con- 
fequences ; while the others repeatedly refer to 
it in their reafonings, as one of thofe facts con- 
cerning the mind, of which it would be equally 
fuperfluous to attempt a proof or a refutation. 

I have enlarged on this part of Dr Reid's 
writings the more fully, as he was himfelf dif- 
pofed, on all occafions, to reft upon 't his chief 
merit as an author. In proof of this, I ihall 
tranfcribe a few fentences from a le:ter of his 
to Dr Gregory, dated 20th Auguft 1790. 

" It would be want of candour not to own, that 
" I think there is fome merit in what you are 
" pleafed to call my Philofophy ; but I think it lies 
" chiefly in having called in queltion the common 
" theory of Ideas or Im ges of things in the mind 

" being 


" being the only objects of thought ; a theory 
" founded on natural prejudices, and fo univer- 
" fally received as to be interwoven with the 
*' ftruclure of language. Yet were I to give 
" you a detail of what led me to call in queftion 
" this theory, after I had long held it as felf- 
" evident and unquestionable, you would think, 
" as I do, that there was much of chance in the 
" matter. The difcovery was the birth of time, 
" not of genius ; and Berkeley and Hume did 
" more to bring it to light than the man that 
" hit upon it. I think there is hardly any thing 
" that can be called mine in the . philofophy of 
" the mind, which does not follow with eafe 
" from the detection of this prejudice. 

" I muft, therefore, beg of you moil earneft- 
" ly, to make no contrart in my favour to the 
" difparagement of my predeceffors in the fame 
" purfuit. I can truly fay of them, and mail al- 
" ways avow, what you are pleaied to fay of 
" me, that but for the ailittance I have received 
" from their writings, I never could have wrote 
" or thought what I have done." 

3. Somewhat connected with the raft objec- 
tion, are the cenfures which have been fo fre- 


quently bellowed on Dr Re id, for an unnecef- 
fary and unfyftematical multiplication of origi- 
nal or inftinclive principles. 

In reply to thefe cenfures, I have little to add 
to what I have remarked on the fame topic, in 
the Philofophy of the Human Mind. That the 
fault which is thus afcribed to Dr Reid has 
been really committed by fome ingenious wri- 
ters in this part of the ifland, I moll readily al- 
low ; nor will I take upon me to aiTert, that he 
has, in no inflance, fallen into it himfelf. Such 
inflances, however, will be found, on an accu- 
rate examination of his works, to be compara- 
tively few, and to bear a very trifling propor- 
tion to thofe, in which he has moft fuccefsfully 
and deciiively difplayed his acutenefs, in expo- 
ling the premature and flimfy generalizations of 
his predecefTors. 

A certain degree of leaning to that extreme 
to which I>r Reid feems to have inclined, was, 
at the time when he wrote, much fafer than the 
oppofite bias. From the earlier! ages, the fci- 
ences in general, and more particularly the fci- 
ence of the human mind, have been vitiated by 
an undue love of fimplicity \ and, in the courfe 



of the lad century, this difpofition, after having 
been long difplayed in fubtile theories concern- 
ing the Active Powers, or the Principles of Hu- 
man Conduct, has been directed to fimilar re- 
finements with refpect to the Faculties of the 
Underftanding, and the Truths with which they 
are converfant. Mr Hume himfelf has coin- 
cided fo far with the Hartjleian fchool, as to 
-reprefent the " principle of union and coheiion 
" among our Ample ideas as a kind of attrac- 
" Hon, of as univerfal application in the Men- 
" tal world as in the Natural * ;" and Dr 
Hartley, with a ftill more fanguine imagina- 
tion, looked forward to an asra, " when future 
" generations mall put all kinds of evidences 
" and inquiries into mathematical forms ; re- 
" ducing Aristotle's ten categories, and Bilhop 
" Wilkin's forty fumma genera, to the head of 
" quantity alone, fo as to make mathematics and 
" logic, natural hiftory and civil hiftory, na- 
" tural philofophy and philofophy of all ether 
" kinds, coincide omni ex parte f." 


* Treat:/'- of Human Nature, vol. i. p. 30. 

f Hartley or. Man, p. 207. 41:0 edit. London, 1791- 


It is needlefs to remark the obvious tendency 
of fuch premature generalizations to withdraw 
the attention from the ftudy of particular phe- 
nomena ; while the effect of Reid's mode of 
philofophizing, even in thofe imtances where it 
is carried to an excefs, is to detain us, in this 
preliminary ftep, a little longer than is abfo- 
lutely neceiTary. The truth is, that when the 
phenomena^ a^e once afcertamed, generalization 
is here of comparatively little value, and a tafk 
of far lefs difficulty than to obferve facts with 
preciiion, and to record them with fairnefs. 

In no part of Br Reid's writings, I am in- 
clined to think, could more plaufibie criticifms 
be made on this ground, than in his claffification 
of our active principles ; but even there, the facts 
are always placed fully and diftinctiy before the 
reader. That feveral of the benevolent af- 
fections which he has ftated as ultimate fads 
in our conftitution, might be analyzed into the 
fame general principle differently modified, ac- 
cording to circumfcances, there can, in my opi- 
nion, be little doubt. This, however, (as I 
have elfewhere obferyed *), notwithstanding the 


* Outlines of Moral Philofophy, pp. 79, 80. 2d edit, Edin. 


itrefs which has been fometimes laid upon it, is 
chiefly a queftion of arrangement. Whether 
we fuppofe thefe affections to be all ultimate 
facts, or fome of them to be refolvable into 
other facts more general ; they are equally to 
be regarded as conftituent parts of human na- 
ture ; and, upon . either "fuppoiition, we have 
equal reafon to admire the wifdom with which 
that nature is adapted to the fituation in which 
it is placed. — The laws which regulate the ac- 
quired perceptions of Sight, are furely as much 
a part of our frame, as thofe which regulate any 
of our original perceptions ; and, although they 
require, for their development, a certain degree 
of experience and obiervation in the indivi- 
dual, the uniformity of the refult fhews, that 
there is nothing arbitrary nor accidental in their 
origin. In this point of view, what can be more 
philofophical, as well as beautiful, than the 
words of Mr Ferguson, That " natural affec- 
" tion fprings up in the foul of the mother, as 
" the milk fprings in her breaft, to furnifn nou- 
" rilhment to her child !" — " The erTecl is here 
" to the race," as the fame author has excel- 
lently obferved, " what the vital motion of the 

" heart 


" heart is to the individual : too neceffary to 
" the prefervation of nature's works, to be 
" intrufted to the precarious will or intention 
" of thofe molt nearly concerned*." 

The queftion, indeed, concerning the origin 
of our different affections, leads to fome curious 
analytical difquilitions ; but is of very fubordi- 
nate importance to thofe inquiries which relate 
to their laws, and ufes, and mutual references. 
In many ethical fyftems, however, it feems to 
have been confidered as the moil interefting fub- 
ject of difquifition which this wonderful part of 
our frame prefents. 

In Dr Reid's EJfays on the Intellectual Powers 
of Man, and in his Inquiry into- the Human Mind, 
I recollect, little that can juftly incur a fimilar 
cenfure ; notwithstanding the ridicule which 
Dr Priestley has attempted to throw on the 
laft of thefe performances, in his " Table of 
" Reid's Injunctive Principles -j-." To examine 


* Principles of Moral and Folitical Science, Part I. chap. I. 
&£}. 3. Of the principles offociety in human nature. — The whole 
difculiion ynites, in a lingular degree, the founded philofo- 
phy with the rcoft eloquent description- 

•j- Examination c/*Re;d's Inquiry, 8iC> London, 1774. 


all the articles enumerated in that table, would 
require a greater latitude of difquifition than 
the limits of this memoir allow ; and, therefore, 
I mail confine my obfervations to a few instances, 
where the precipitancy of the general criticifm, 
feems to me to admit of little difpute. In this 
light I cannot help conlidering it, when applied 
to thofe difpolitions or determinations of the 
mind, to which Dr Reid has given the names 
of the Principle of Credulity, and the Principle 
of Veracity. How far thefe titles are happily 
chofen, is a queftion of little moment ; and on 
that point I am ready to make every concellion, 
I contend only for what is effentially connected 
with the objection which has given rife to thefe 

" That any man" (fays DrPRiESTLEY) " mould 
" imagine that a peculiar inftinclive principle 
. " was necelfary to explain our giving credit to 
" the relations of others, appears to me, who have 
"been ufed to fee things in a different light, very 
" extraordinary; and yet this doctrine is advan- 
" ced by Dr Reid, and adopted by Dr Beattie. 
'-' But really" (he adds) " what the former fays 
M *' in 


" in favour of it, is hardly deferring of the flight- 
" ell notice*." 

The paifage quoted by Dr Priestley, in juf- 
tification of this very peremptory decifion, is as 
follows : " If credulity were the effect of rea- 
" foning and experience, it mull grow up and 
"gather flrength in the fame proportion as 
" reafon and experience do. But if it is the 
" gift of nature, it will be the flrongeil in child- 
" hood, and limited and reftrained by experi- 
" enc'e ; and the molt fuperncial view of human 
" life mews that this laft is the cafe, and not the • 
" firft." 

To my own judgment, this argument of Dr 
Reid's, when ponnected with the excellent illu- 
Urations which accompany it, carries complete 
conviction ; and I am confirmed in my opinion 
by finding, that Mr Smith (a writer inferior to 
none in acutenefs, and llrongly difpofed by the pe- 
culiar bent of his genius, to Amplify, as far as pof- 
fible, the Philofophy of Human- Nature) has-, in 
the lateil edition of his theory of Moral Senti- 
ments, acquiefced in this very conclulion ; urging 
in fupport of it the fame reafonihg which Dr 


* Examination of Reid's Inquiry, &c. p. 82. 


Priestley affects to eftimate fo lightly. " There 
" feems to be in young children an inftinctive 
*■ difpofition to believe whatever they are told. 
" Nature feems to have judged it neceflary for 
" their prefervation that they mould, for fome 
" time at leaft, put implicit confidence in thofe 
" to whom the care of their childhood, and of 
" the earlieft and moil neceffary part of their 
" education, is intrufted. Their credulity, ac- 
" cordingly^ is exceffive, and it requires long 
* and much experience of the falfehood of man- 
" kind to reduce them to a reafonable degree of 
" diffidence and diftruft *."— That Mr Smith's 
opinion alfo coincided with Dr Reid's, in what 
he has dated concerning the principle of Veracity \ 
appears evidently from the remarks which im- 
mediately follow the paflage jufl quoted. — But 
I mult not add to the length of this memoir by 
unneceffary citations. 

Another inftinctive principle mentioned by 
Reid, is " our belief of the continuance of 
" the prefent courfe of nature." — " All our 
" knowledge of nature" (he obferves) " be- 
" yond our original perceptions, is got by expe- 

g i " rience, 

_____ , __ * 

* Smith's Theory, laft edit. Part VII, fe& a, 


" rience, and confifts in the interpretation of 
" natural figns. The appearance of the fign 19 
" followed by the belief of the thing iignified. 
" Upon this principle of our conftitution, not 
" only acquired perception, but alfo inductive 
" reafoning, and all reafoning from analogy, is 
41 grounded ; and, therefore, for want of a better 
••' name, we fhall beg leave to call it the indnflive 
" principle. It is from the force of this prin- 
" ciple that we immediately affent to that axiom, 
" upon which all our knowledge of nature is« 
" built, that effects of the fame kind mull have 
" tlf fame caufe. Take away the light of this 
" inductive principle, and experience is as blind 
" as a mole. She may indeed feel what is prefent, 
" and what immediately touches her, but fhe 
" fees nothing that is either before or behind, 
" upon the right hand or upon the left, future 
" or paft." 

On this doctrine, likewife, the fame critic has 
expreffed himfelf with much feverity ; calling 
it " a mere quibble ;" and adding, " Every ftep 
" that I take among this writer's fophifms, raifes 
" my aftonimment higher than before." In this, 
however, as in many other inftances, he has been 



led to cenfure Dr Re id, not bccaufe he was able 
to fee farther than his antagonift, but becaufe he 
did not fee quite fo far. Turgot, in an article in- 
ferted in the French Encyclopedic, and Condor- 
cet, in a difcourfe prefixed to one of his mathe- 
matical publications *, have, both of them, ftated 
the facl: with a true philofophical precilion ; and, 
after doing fo, have deduced from it an inference, 
not only the fame in fubftance with that of Dr 
Re in, but almoft expreffed in the fame form of 

In thefe references, as well as in that already 
made to Mr Smith's Theory, I would not be un- 
derftood to lay any undue ftrefs on authority, in 
a philofophical argument. I wifh only, by con- 
trafting the modefty and caution refulting from 
habits of profound thought, with that theoreti- 
cal intrepidity which a blindnefs to infuperable 
difficulties has a tendency to infpire, to invite 
thofe whofe prejudices againft this part of Reid's 
fyflem reft chiefly on the great names to which 
they conceive it to be hoftile, to re-examine it 

g 3 wittl 

* Effai far V application de Vanalyfe a la prolabillte des dccU. 
Jions renducs a la pluralite des voix. Paris 1785. 


with a little more attention, before they pro- 
nounce finally on its merits. 

The prejudices which are apt to occur againft 
a mode of philofophizing, fo mortifying to fcho- 
laftic arrogance, are encouraged greatly by that 
natural difpofition, to refer particular facts to 
general laws, which is the foundation of all 
fcientific arrangement ; a principle of the ut- 
moft importance* to our intellectual conftitution, 
but which requires the guidance of a found and 
experienced underftanding to accomplifh the 
purpofes for which it was deftined. They are 
encouraged alfo, in no inconiiderable degree, by 
the acknowledged fuccefs of Mathematicians, in 
railing, on the bails of a few fimple data, the 
monVmagnificent, and at the fame time the moll 
folid, fabric of fcience, of which human genius 
can boaft. The abfurd references which Logi- 
cians are accuftomed to make to Euclid's Ele- 
ments of Geometry, as a model which cannot be 
too itudioufly copied, both in Phylics and in Mo- 
rals, have contributed, in this as in a variety of 
other inftances, to miflead philofophers from the 
ihidy of facts, into the falfe refinements of hypo- 
thetical theory. 



On thefe mifapplications of Mathematical Me- 
thod to fciences which reft ultimately on expe- 
riment and observation, I fliall take another op- 
portunity of offering fome ftriclures. At prefent, 
it is fufficient to remark the peculiar nature of 
the truths about which pure or abftract, mathe- 
matics are converfant. As thefe truths have all 
a necelfary connexion with each other, (all of 
them refting ultimately on thofe definitions or 
hypothefes which are the principles of our rea- 
foning), the beauty of the fcience cannot fail to 
increafe in proportion to the fimplicity of the 
data, compared with the incalculable variety of 
confequences which they involve : And to the 
Amplifications and generalizations of theory on 
fuch a fubjecl, it is perhaps impoffible to con- 
ceive any limit. How different is the cafe in 
thofe inquiries, where our firft principles are 
not definitions \>\x\.fa5h,s ; and where our bufinefs 
is not to trace neceffary connexions, but the laws 
which regulate the efiablifhed order of the uni* 
verfe ! 

In various attempts which have been lately 
made, more efpecially on the Continent, towards 
a fyftematical expofition of the elements of Phy- 
fics, the effects of the miflake I am now cenfu- 

I 4 ring 


ring are extremely remarkable. The happy ufe 
of mathematical principles exhibited in the wri- 
.tings of Newton and his followers, having ren- 
dered an extenfive knowledge of them an indif- 
penfable preparation for the ftudy of the Mecha- 
nical Philofophy, the early habits of thought ac- 
quired in the former purfuit are naturally trans- 
ferred to the latter. Hence the illogical and ob- 
icure manner in which its elementary principles 
have frequently been flated ; an attempt being 
made to deduce from the fmalleft poffible number 
of data, the whole fyftem of truths which it 
comprehends. The analogy exifting among fome 
of the fundamental laws of mechanics, bellows, 
in the opinion of the multitude, an appearance 
of plaufibility on fuch attempts j and their ob- 
vious tendency is to withdraw the attention from 
. that unity of delign, which it is the nobleil em- 
ployment of philofophy to illuftrate, by difgui- 
fing it under the femblance of an eternal and ne- 
ceffary order, fimilar to what the mathematician 
delights to trace among the mutual relations of 
quantities and figures. 

Thefe flight hints may ferve as a reply in part 
to what Dr Priestley has fuggefted with refpecl: 
to the confequences likely to follow, if the fpiritof 



Reid's philofophy mould be introduced into phy- 
fics *. — One confequence would unquellionably 
be, a careful feparation between the principles 
which we learn from experience alone, and thofe 
which are fairly refolvable, by mathematical or 
phyfical reasoning, into other facts ftill more ge- 
neral ; and, of courfe, a correction of that falfe 
logic, which, while it throws an air of myltery 
over the plaineft and moll undeniable facts, le- 
vels the ftudy of nature, in point of moral inte- 
reft, with the inveftigations of the Geometer or 
of the Algebraift. 

It mufl not, however, be fuppofed, that," in 
the prefent ftate of Natural Philofophy, a falfe 
logic threatens the fame dangerous effects as in 
the Philofophy of the Mind. It may retard 
fomewhat the progrefs of the fludent at his firft 
outfet ; or it may confound, in his apprehen- 
fions, the harmony of fyftematical order, with 
the conliftency and mutual dependency effen- 
tial to a feries of mathematical theorems : but 
the fundamental truths of phyflcs are now too 
well eftablifhed, and the checks which it fur- 
nifhes againft fophiftry are too numerous and 


* Examination of Re id's Inquiry, p. no. 


palpable, to admit the poflibility of any perma- 
nent error in our deductions, In the philofophy 
of the mind, fo difficult is the acquifition of 
thofe habits of Reflection which can alone lead 
to a correct knowledge of the intellectual phe- 
nomena, that a faulty hypothecs, if fkilful- 
ly fortified by the impofing, though illufory 
ftrength of arbitrary definitions and a fyftema- 
tical phrafeology, may maintain its ground for 
a fucceffion of ages. 

It will not, I truft, be inferred from any thing 
I have here advanced, that I mean to offer an 
apology for thofe, who, either in phyfics or mo- 
rals, would prefumptuoufly ftate their own opi- 
nions with refpect to the laws of nature, as a 
bar againft future attempts to fimplify and ge- 
neralize them flill farther. To affert, that none 
of the mechanical explanations yet given of 
Gravitation are fatisfactory ; and .even to hint, 
that ingenuity might be more profitably em- 
ployed than in the fearch of fuch a theory, is 
fomething different from a gratuitous affump- 
tion of ultimate facts in phyfics ; nor does it 
imply an obftinate determination to refift legi- 
timate evidence, mould fome fortunate inqui- 


rer, — contrary to whatfeems probable at prefent, 
— fucceed where the genius of Newton, has 
failed. If Dr Reid has gone farther than this 
in his concluiions concerning the principles 
which he calls original or inftinctive, he has. de- 
parted from that guarded language in which he 
commonly exprefTes himfelf; — for all that it 
was of importance for him to conclude was, 
that the theories of his predecefTors were, in 
thefe inftances, exceptionable ; — and the doubts 
he may occalionally infinuate, concerning the 
fuccefs of future adventurers, fo far from betray- 
ing any overweening confidence in his own 
underftanding, are an indirect tribute to the ta- 
lents of thofe, from whofe failure he draws an 
argument againfl the poffibility of their under- 

The fame eagernefs to Amplify and to gene- 
ralize, which led Priestley to complain of the 
number of Reid's inftinctive principles, has car- 
ried fome later philofophers a ftep farther. Ac- 
cording to them, the very word infiinci is un- 
philofophical ; and every thing either in man 
or brute, which has been hitherto referred to 
this myfterious fource, may be eafily account- 


ed for by experience or imitation. A few in- 
stances in which this doctrine appears to have 
been fuccefsfully verified, have been deemed 
furhcient to eftablifh it without any limita- 

In a very original work, on which I have al- 
ready hazarded fome criticifins, much ingenui- 
ty has been employed in analyzing the wonder- 
ful efforts which the human infant is enabled to 
make for its own prefervation, the moment af- 
ter its introduction to the light. Thus, it is 
obferved, that the foetus, while flill in the ute- 
rus, learns to perform the operation of Swallow- 
ing ; and alfo learns to relieve itfelf, by a change 
of poflure, from the irkfomenefs of continued 
reft : And, therefore, (if we admit thefe propo- 
rtions), we mult conclude, that fome of the ac- 
tions which infants are vulgarly fuppofed to 
perform in confequence of inftincts coeval with 
birth, are only a continuation of actions to 
which they were determined at an earlier pe- 
riod of their being. The remark is ingenious, 
and it may perhaps be juft ; but it does not 
prove, that InJlinSl is an unphilofophical term ; 
nor does it render the operations of the infant 



lefs myilerious than they feem to be on the com- 
mon fuppofition. How far foever the analyfis, 
in fuch inllances, may be carried, we mull at 
laft arrive at fome phenomenon no lefs wonder- 
ful than that we mean to explain : — in other 
words, we mult Hill admit as an ultimate fact, 
the exiilence of an original determination to a 
particular mode of action falutary or neceffary 
to the animal ; and all we have accomplilhed 
is to conned: the origin of this inltinct with an 
earlier period in the .hiftory of the human 

The fame author has attempted to account, 
in a manner fomewhat limilar, for the different 
degrees in which the young of different animals 
are able, at the moment of birth, to exert their 
bodily powers. Thus, calves and chickens are 
able to walk almoft immediately ; while the 
human infant, even in the moll favourable fitua- 
tions, is fix or even twelve months old before 
he can Hand alone. For this, Dr Darwin af- 
ligns two caufes. i. That the young of fome 
animals come into the world in a more com- 
plete Hate than that of others : — the colt and 
lamb (for example) enjoying, in this refpeft, a 

ft r iking 


ftriking advantage over the puppy and the rab- 
bit, i. That the mode of walking of fome 
animals, coincides more perfectly than that of 
others, with the previous motions of the foe- 
tus in uter o. The ftruggles of all animals (he 
obferves) in the womb, muft referable their 
manner of fwimming, as by this kind of motion, 
they can beft change their attitude in water. 
But the fwimming of the calf and of the chick- 
en refembles their ordinary movements on the 
ground, which they have thus learned in part 
to execute, while concealed from our obferva- 
tion ; whereas, the fwimming of the human in- 
fant differing totally from his manner of walk- 
ing, he has no opportunity of acquiring the laft 
of thefe arts till he is expofed to our view. — The 
theory is extremely plaufible, and does honour 
to the author's fagacity \ but it only places in a 
new light that provident care which Nature has 
taken of all her offspring in the infancy of their 

Another inftance may contribute towards a 
more ample illuftration of the fame fubject. A 
lamb, not many minutes after it is dropped, 
proceeds to fearch for its nouriihment in that 



fpot where alone it is to be found ; applying 
both its limbs and its eyes to their refpe&ive 
offices. The peafant obferves the facl:, and gives 
the name of injlinffi, or fome correfponding term, 


to the unknown principle by which the animal 
is guided. On a more accurate examination of 
circumftances, the philofopher finds reafon to 
conclude, that it is by the fenfe of fmelling, 
it is thus directed to its object. In proof of 
this, among other curious facts, the follow- 
ing has been quoted. " On dhTedting" (fays 
Galen) " a goat great with young, I found a 
" brilk embryon, and having detached it from 
" the matrix, and fnatching it away before it 
" faw its dam, I brought it into a room where 
" there were many veffels ; fome filled with 
" wine, others with oil, fome with honey, 
" others with milk, or fome other liquor ; and 
" in others there were grains and fruits. We 
" firft obferved the young animal get upon its 
" feet and walk ; then it fhook itfelf, and af- 
c terwards fcratched its fide with one of its feet : 
" then we faw it fmelling to *every one of thofe 
" things that were fet in the room ; and when 
" it had fmelt to them all, it drank up the 

" milk," 


" milk*." Admitting this very beautiful (lo- 
ry to be true, (and, for my own part, I am far 
from being difpofed to queflion its probability), 
it only enables us to Hate the fact with a little 
more precifion, in confequence of * our having 
afcertained, chat it is to the fenfe of fmelling, 
the inftinctive determination is attached. The 
conclulion of the peafant is not here at variance 
with that of the philofopher. It differs only in 
this, that he exprenes himfelf in thofe general 
terms which are fuited to his ignorance of the 
particular procefs by which Nature in this cafe 
accomplifhes her end ; and, if he did otheE- 
wife, he would be cenfurable for prejudging a 
queition of which he is incompetent to form an 
accurate opinion. 

The application of thefe illuftrations to fome 
of Dr Reid's conclufions concerning the in- 
ftinctive principles of the human mind, is, I 
flatter myfelf, fufficiently manifeft. They re- 
late, indeed, to a fubjecl: which differs, in vari- 
ous refpects, from that which has fallen under 
his more particular confideration ; but the fame 


* Darwin, Vol. i. pp. 195, 196. 


of philofophizing will be found to apply equal- 
ly to both. 

4. The criticifms which have been made on 
what Dr Reid has, written concerning the intui- 
tive truths which he diftinguifhes by the title of 
Principles of Common Senfe, would require a 
more ample difcuffion, than I can now bellow 
on them ; — not that the importance of thefe 
criticifms (of fuch of them, at leaft, as I have 
happened to meet with) demands a long or ela- 
borate refutation ; but becaufe the fubjecl, ac- 
cording to the view I wifTi to take of it, in- 
volves fome other queflions of great moment 
and difficulty, relative to the foundations of 
human knowledge. Dr Priestley, the molt 
formidable of Dr Reid's antagonifts, has grant- 
ed as much in favour of this doctrine as it is 
worth while to contend for, on the prefent oc- 
cafion. " Had thefe writers" (heobferves with 
refpect. to Dr Reid and his followers) " afiu- 
" med, as the elements of their Common Senfe, 
•' certain truths which are fo plain that no man 
" could doubt of them, (without entering into 
" the ground of our affent to them), their con- 
" duct would have been liable to very little ob- 
h " jection. 


" jeclion. All that could have been faid would 
" have been, that, without any neceffity, they 
" had made an innovation in the received ufe 
" of a term. For no perfon ever denied, that 
" there are felf-evident truths, and that thefe 
" muft be affumed as the foundation of all our 
" reafoning. I never met with any perfon who 
" did not acknowledge this, or heard of any 
" argumentative treatife that did not go upon 
" the fuppolition of it*." After fuch an. ac- 
knowledgment, it is impoffible to forbear afk- 
ing, (with Dr Campbell), " What is the great 
" point which Dr Priestley would controvert ? 
" Is it, whether fuch felf-evident truths fhall 
" be denominated Principles of Common Senfe, 
" or be diitinguifhed by fome other appella- 
" tionf?" 

That the doctrine in queftion has been, in 
fome publications, prefented in a very excep- 
tionable form, I molt readily allow ; nor would 


* Examination of Dr Reid's Inquiry, Sec. p. 119. 
+ Ph'dofopby of Rhetoric, vol. i. p. in. — See Note E. 


I be underftood to fubfcribe to it implicitly ? 
even as it appears in the works of Dr Reid. 
It is but an act of juftice to him, however, to 
requeft, that his opinions may be judged of 
from his own works alone, not from thofe of 
others who may have happened to coincide 
with him in certain tenets, or in certain modes 
of expreffion ; and that, before any ridicule be 
attempted on his conclufions concerning the au- 
thority of Common Senfe, his antagonists would 
take the trouble to examine in what accepta- 
tion he has employed that phrafe. 

The truths which Dr Reid feems, in mcft in- 
ftances, difpofed to refer to the judgment of this 
tribunal, might, in my opinion, be denominated 
more unexceptionably, " Fundamental Laws of 
" Human Belief." They have been called by a 
very ingenious foreigner, (M. Trembley of Ge- 
neva), but certainly with a lingular infelicity of 
language, Prejuges Legitimes. — Of this kind are 
the following propoiitions ; " I am the fame 
" perfon to-day that I was yeflerday ;" " The 
." material world has an exiftence independent 
" of that of percipient beings ;" " There are 
" other intelligent beings in the univerfe befide 
h 2 "myfelf ;" 


" myfelf ;" "The future courfe of nature will 
" referable the paft." Such truths no man but 
a philofopher ever thinks of Hating to himfelf 
in words ; but all our conduct and all our rea- 
fonings proceed on the fuppofition that they are 
admitted. The belief of them is effential for the 
prefervation of our animal exiftence ; and it is 
accordingly coeval with the firft operations of 
the intellect. 

One of the firft writers who introduced the 
phrafe Common Senfe into the technical or appro- 
priate language of logic, was Father Buffier, in 
a book entitled, Traite des Premieres Verites. It 
has fince been adopted by feveral authors of note 
in this country ; particularly by Dr Reid, Dr Os- 
wald and DrBEATTiE ; by all of whom, however, 
I am afraid, it mufl be confeffed, it has been oc- 
calionally employed without a due attention to 
precifion. The laft of thefe writers ufes it # to 
denote that power by which the mind perceives 
the truth of any intuitive propofition ; whether 
it be an axiom of abftract fcience ; or a ftatement 
qf fonie fact refting on the immediate information 


* EJfay on Truth, edition fecond, p. 40. et feq. ; alfo 
p. 1 66. et feq. 


of confcioufnefs, of perception, or of memory ; or 
one of thofe fundamental laws of belief which are 
implied in the application of our faculties to the 
ordinary bufinefs of life. The fame exteniive ufe 
of the word may, I believe, be found in the other 
authors juft mentioned. But no authority can ju- 
ftify fuch a laxity in the employment of language 
in philofophical difcuffions ; for, if mathematical 
axioms be (as they are manifeftly and indifputa- 
bly) a clafs of proportions enentially diftincl: from 
the other kinds of intuitive truths noWdefcribed, 
why refer them all indiscriminately to the fame 
principle in our conftitution ? If this phrafe, 
therefore, be at all retained, preciiion requires, 
that it mould be employed in a more limited ac- 
ceptation ; and accordingly, in the works under 
ourconlideration, it is appropriated moltfrequent- 
ly, though by no means uniformly, to that clafs 
of Intuitive Truths which I have already called 
" Fundamental Laws of Belief *." When thus 
reftricted, it conveys a notion, unambiguous at 
lead, and definite • and, confequently, the que- 
h 3 ftion 

* This feems to be nearly the meaning annexed to the 
phrafe, by the learned and acute author of the Philofophy of 
Rhetoric, vol. i. p. 109. etfeq. 


{lion about its propriety or impropriety turns 
entirely on the coincidence of this definition 
with the meaning of the word as employed in 
ordinary difcourfe. Whatever objections, there- 
fore, may be ftated to the expreffion as now de- 
fined, will apply to it with additional force, 
when u£ed with the latitude which has been al- 
ready cenfured. 

I have faid, that the queflion about the propri- 
ety of the phrafe Common Senfc as employed by 
philofophers, mud be decided by an appeal to 
general practice : For, although it be allowable 
and even neceffary for a philofopher, to limit 
the acceptation of words which are employed, 
vaguely in common difcourfe, it is always dan- 
gerous to give to a word a fcientiflc meaning 
effentially diftinct from that in which it is 
ufually underftood. It has, at leafl, the effect 
of mifleading thofe who do not enter deeply 
into the fubjec~t ; and of giving a paradoxical 
appearance to doctrines, which, if expreffed in 
more unexceptionable terms, would be readily 



It appears to me, that this has actually hap- 
pened in the prefent inftance. The phrafe Com- 


mon Senfe, as it is generally underflood, is near- 
ly fynonymous with Mother-wit ; denoting that 
degree of fagacity (depending partly on origi- 
nal capacity, and partly on perfonal experience 
and obfervation) which qualifies an individual 
for thofe fimple and effential occupations which 
all men are called on to exercife habitually by 
their common nature. In this acceptation, it 
is oppofed to thofe mental acquirements which 
are derived from a regular education, and from 
the fludy of books ; and refers, not to the fpe- 
culative convictions of the underltanding, but 
to that prudence and difcretion which are the 
foundation of fuccefsful conduct. Such is the 
idea which Pope annexes to the word, when, 
fpeaking of good fenfe, (which means only a 
more than ordinary mare of common, fenfe), he 
calls it 

" the gift of Heaven, 

" And tho' no fcience, fairly worth the feven." 

To fpeak, accordingly, of appealing from the 
conclulions of philofophy to common fenfe, had 
the appearance, to title-page readers, of appeal- 
ing from the verdict of the learned to the voice 

b a. of 


of the multitude ; or of attempting to filence 
free difcuffion, by a reference to fome arbitrary 
and undefinable ftandard, diftinct from any of 
the intellectual powers hitherto enumerated by 
logicians. Whatever countenance may be fup- 
pofed to have been given by fome writers to fuch 
an interpretation of this doctrine, I may ven- 
ture to affert, that none is afforded by the works 
of Dr Reid. The ftandard to which he appeals, 
is neither the creed of a particular feci, nor the 
inward light of enthufiaflic prefumption ; but 
that conftitution of human nature without which 
all the bufinefs of the world would immediately 
ceafe ; — and the fubftance of his argument 
amounts merely to this, that thofe effential laws 
of belief to which fceptics have objected, when 
conlidered in connexion with our fcientific rea- 
fonings, are implied in every ftep we take as 
active beings ; and if called in queftion by any 
man in his practical concerns, would expofe 
him univerfally to the charge of infanity. 

In flating this important doctrine, it were 
perhaps to be wifhed; that the fubjed had been 
treated with fome.what more of analytical ac- 
curacy ; and it is certainly to be regretted, that 



a phrafe fliould have been employed, fo well 
calculated by its ambiguity to furnifh a conve- 
nient handle to mifreprefentations ; but in the 
judgment of thofe who have perufed Dr Enid's 
writings with an intelligent and candid atten- 
tion, .thefe" mifreprefentations mult recoil on 
their authors ; while they who are really inte- 
refted in the progrefs of ufeful fcience, will be 
difp'ofed rather to lend their aid in fupplying 
what is defective in his views, than to reject 
nattily a doctrine which aims, by the develope- 
ment of fome logical principles, overlooked in 
the abfurd fyftems which have been borrow- 
ed from the fchools, to vindicate the authority 
of truths intimately and extenhvely connected 
with human happinefs. 

In the profecution of my own fpeculations on 
the Human Mind, I fhall have occafion to ex- 
plain myfelf fully, concerning this as well as 
various other queftions connected with the foun- 
dations of philofophical Evidence. The new 
doctrines, and new phrafeology on that fubject, 
which have lately become fafhionable among 
fome Metaphyiicians in Germany, and which, 
\n my opinion, have contributed not a little to 



involve it in additional obfcurity, are a fuffU 
cient proof that this erTential and fundamental 
article of logic is not as yet completely ex- 


In order to bring the foregoing remarks with- 
in fome compafs, I have found it necefTary to 
confine myfelf to fuch objections as ftrike at 
the root of Br Reid's Philofophy, without touch- 
ing on any of his opinions on particular topics, 
however important. I have been obliged alfo 
to cornprefs what I have ftated, within narrower 
limits than were perhaps confident with com- 
plete perfpicuity ; and to reject many illuftra- 
tions which crowded upon me, at almolt every 
ftep of my progrefs. 

It may not, perhaps, be fuperfiuous to add, 
that, fuppohng fome of thefe objections to pof- 
fefs more force than I have afcribed to them in 
my reply, it will not therefore follow, that lit- 
tle advantage is to be derived from a careful 
perufal of the (peculations 'againft which they 
are directed. Even they who diffent the 
moft widely from £r Reid's conclufions, can 


OF THOMAS REID, D. D. CXX112 to admit, that as a Writer he 
exhibits a itriking contrail to the moll fuccefs- 
ful of his predeceffors, in a logical precifion 
and fimplicity of language ; — his ftatement of 
facls being neither vitiated by phyliological 
hypothefis, nor ob feu red by fcholaltic myftery. 
Whoever has reflected on the infinite import- 
ance, in fuch inquiries, of a Ikilful ufe of words 
as the eiTential inllrument of thought, mull be 
aware of the influence which his works are 
likely to have on the future progrefs of fci- 
ence ; were they to produce no other effecl 
than a general imitation of his mode of rea- 
foning, and of his guarded phrafeology. 

It is not indeed every reader to whom thefe 
inquiries are acceilible ; for habits of attention 
m general, and flill more habits of attention to 
the phenomena of thought, require early and 
careful cultivation : But thofe who are capable 
of the exertion, will foon recognife, in Dr Ejeid's 
flatements, the faithful hiltory of their own 
minds, and will find their labours amply re- 
warded by that fatisfaclion which always ac- 
companies the difcovery of ufeful truth. They 
may expect, alio, to be rewarded by fome in- 


tellectual acquisitions not altogether ufelefs in 
their other ftudies. An author well qualified 
to judge, from his own experience, of whatever 
conduces to invigorate or to embeiliih the un- 
derstanding, has beautifully remarked, that " bv 
" turning the foul inward on itfclf, its forces are 
" concentred, and are fitted for ftronger and 
" bolder flights of fcience ; and that, in fuch 
" purfuits, whether we take, or whether we loie 
" the game, the chace is certainly of fervice *." 
In this refpect, the philoiophy of the mind (ab- 
itracting entirely from that pre-eminence which 
"belongs to it in confequence of its practical ap- 
plications) may claim a difiinguimed rank a- 
mong thofe preparatory difciplinfcs, which ano- 
ther writer of no lefts eminence has happily 
compared to " the crops which are railed, not 
If for the fake of the harveft, but to be plough- 
M ed in as a dreffing to the land j\" 


* Preface to Mr Burke's Ejfaj on the Sublime and Beau- 

r Eifhop Berkeley's Querifi. 


Concluflon of the Narrative. 

fT^HE three works to which the foregoing re- 
■* marks refer, together with the EiTay on 
Quantity, publiilied in the Philofophical Tranf- 
actions of the Royal Society of London, and a 
fhort but mafterly Analyfis of Ariftotle's Logic, 
which forms an Appendix to the third volume 
of Lord Kames's Sketches, comprehend the 
whole of Dr Re id's publications. The interval 
between the dates of the rlrft and laft of thefe 
amounts to no lefs than forty years, although he 
had attained to the age of thirty-eight before he 
ventured to appear as an author. 

With the Effays on the Aclive Powers of Man, 
he clofed his literary career ; but he continued, 
notwithstanding, to profecute his ftudies with 
unabated ardour and activity. The more mo- 
dern improvements in chemiltry attracted his 
particular notice ; and he applied himfelf, with 
his wonted diligence and fuccefs, to the ftudy of 
its new doctrines and new nomenclature. He 



amufed himfelf, alfo, at times, in preparing for 
a Philofophical Society, of which he was a mem- 
ber, fliort EfTays on particular topics, which 
happened to intereft his curiofity, and on which 
he thought he might derive ufeful hints from 
friendly difcullion. The molt important of thefe 
were, An Examination of Priestley's Opinions 
concerning Matter and Mind ; Obfervations on 
the Utopia of Sir Thomas More ; and Phyjio- 
logical Refections on Mufcidar Motion. This 
laft eflay appears to have been written in the 
eighty-fixth year of his age, and was read by 
the author to his aflbciates, a few months be- 
fore his death. His " thoughts were led to the 
" fpeculations it contains," (as he himfelf men- 
tions in the conclufion), " by the experience of 
" fome of the erTe&s which old age produces on 
" the mufcular motions." — " As they were oc- 
" cafioned, therefore," (he adds), " by the in- 
" firmities of age, they will, I hope, be heard 
" with the greater indulgence." 

Among the various occupations with which 
he thus enlivened his retirement, the mathema- 
tical purfuits of his earlier years held a diftin- 
guifhed place. He delighted to converfe about 



them with his friends ; and often exercifed his 
Ikill in the inveftigation of particular problems. 
His knowledge of ancient geometry had not 
probably been, at any time, very extenfive ; 
but he had cultivated diligently thofe parts of 
mathematical fcience which are fubfervient to 
the ftudy of Sir Isaac Newton's Works. He 
had a predilection, more particularly, for re- 
fearches requiring the aid of arithmetical cal- 
culation, in the practice of which he pofTefTed 
uncommon expertnefs and addrefs. I think, I 
have fometimes obferved in him a flight and 
amiable vanity, connected with this accompiifh- 

The revival, at this period, of Dr Reid's 
nrft fcientific propenfity, has often recalled to 
me a favourite remark of Mr Smith's, That 
of all the amufements of old age, the moft 
grateful and foothing is a renewal of acquaint- 
ance with the favourite {Indies, and favourite 
authors, of our youth ; a remark which, in his 
own cafe, feemed to be more particularly ex- 
emplified, while he was re-perufing, with the 
enthufiafm of a ftudent, the tragic poets of an- 
cient Greece. I heard him at leaft. repeat the. 



obfervation more than once, while Sophocles 
or Euripides lay open on his table. 

In the cafe of Dr Reid, other motives perhaps 
confpired with the influence of the agreeable af- 
fociations, to which Mr Smith probably allu- 
ded. His attention was always fixed on the Hate 
of his intellectual faculties ; and for counteract- 
ing the effects of time onthefe, mathematical ftu- 
dies feem to be fitted in a peculiar degree. They 
are fortunately, too, within the reach of many in- 
dividuals, after a decay of memory difqualifies 
them for inquiries which involve a multiplicity 
of details. Such detached problems, more efpe- 
cially, as Dr Reid commonly felected for his 
confideration ; problems where all the data are 
brought at once under the eye, and where a con- 
nected train of thinking is not "to be carried on 
from day to day ; will be found, (as I have wit- 
nerTed with pleafure in feveral inftances), by 
thofe who are capable of fuch a recreation, a va- 
luable addition to the fcanty refources of a life 
protracted beyond the ordinary limit. 

While he was thus enjoying an old age, hap- 
py in fome refpects beyond the ufual lot of hu- 
manity, his domeftic comfort fufFered a deep 



and incurable wound by the death of MrsREiD* 
He had had the misfortune, too, of furviving, 
for many years, a numerous family of promifing 
children \ four of whom (two fons and two 
daughters) died after they attained to maturity. 
One daughter only was left to him when he loft 
his wife ; and of her affectionate good offices he 
could not always avail himfelf, in confequence 
of the attentions which her own hufband's in- 
firmities required. Of this Lady, who is ftill 
alive, (the widow of Patrick Carmichael, 
M. D *.), I mail have occafion again to introduce 
the name, before I conclude this narrative. 

A fhort extract. from*a letter addrelTed to my- 
felf by Dr Rejd, not many weeks after his 
wife's death, will, I am perfuaded, be acceptable 
to many, as an interefting relic of the Writer. 

" By the lofs of my bofom-friend, with whom 

" I lived fifty-two years, I am brought into a 

i " kind 

* A learned and worthy Phyfician, who, after a long 
refidence in Holland, where he praclifed medicine, retired 
to Glafgow. He was a younger fon of Profeffor Ger- 
schom Carmichael, who published, about the year 1720^ 
an edition of Puffendorff, De Officio Hom'inis et Ciiis, 
and who is pronounced by Dr Hutcheson, " by far the 
4i beft commentator on that book," 


" kind of new world, at a time of life when 
" old habits are not eafily forgot, or new ones 
" acquired. But every world is God's world, 
" and I am thankful for the comforts- he has left 
" me. MrsCARMfcHAEL has now the care of 
'■* two old deaf men, and does every thing in 
" her power to pleafe them ; and both are very 
" feniible of her goodnefs. I have more health 
" than at my time of life I had any reafon to 
" expect. I walk about ; entertain myfelf with 
" reading what I foon forget ; can converfe with 
u one perfon, if he articulates diftinctly, and is 
" within ten inches of my left ear \ go to 
" church, without hearing one word of what is 
" faid. You know, I never had any pretentions 
" to vivacity, but I am Hill free from languor 
" and ennui. 

" If you are weary of this detail, impute it to 
" the anxiety you exprefs to know the Hate of 
" my health. I wilh you may have no more un- 
" ealinefs at my age, — being yours molt affec- 
" tionately." 

About four years after this event, he was pre- 
vailed on by his friend and relation Dr Grego- 
ry, to pafs a few weeks, during the fummer 



of 1796, at Edinburgh. He was accompanied 
by Mrs Carmichael, who lived with him in 
Dr Gregory's houfe ; a fituation which united, 
under the fame roof, every advantage of medi- 
cal care, of tender attachment, and of philofo- 
phical intercourfe. As Dr Gregory's profef- 
fional engagements, however, ncceffarily inter- 
fered much with his attentions to his gueft, I 
enjoyed more of Dr Reid's fociety, than might 
other wife have fallen to my fhare. I had the 
pleafure,- accordingly, of fpending fome hours 
with him daily, and of attending him in his 
walking excurfions, which frequently extended 
to the diftance of three or four miles. — His fa- 
culties (excepting his memory which was conli- 
derably impaired) appeared as vigorous as ever ; 
andj although his deafnefs prevented him from 
taking any fhare in general converfation, he was 
ftill able to enjoy the company of a friend. Mr 
Playfair and myfelf were both witneffes of the 
acutenefs which he difplayed on one occafion, 
in detecting a miftake, by no means obvious, in a 
manufcript of his kinfman David Gregory, on 
the fubjedl of Prime and Ultimate Ratios.— Nov 
i 1 had 


had his temper fuffered from the hand of time, 
either in point of gentlenefs or of gaiety. " In- 
" ftead of repining at the enjoyments of the 
" young, he delighted in promoting them ; and, 
" after all the lofles he had fuftained in his 
" own farhily, he continued to treat children 
"with fuch condefcenfion and benignity, that 
',' fome very young ones noticed the peculiar 
" kindnefs of his eye*." — In apparent foundnefs 
and activity of body, he refembled more a man of 
fixty than of eighty-feven. 

He returned to Glafgow in his ufual health 
and fpirits ; and continued, for fome weeks, to de- 
vote, as formerly, a regular portion of his time 
to the exercife both of body and of mind. It 
appears, from a letter of Dr Cleghorn's to Dr 
Gregory, that he was ftill able to wjDrk with 
his own hands in his garden ; and he was 
found by Dr Brown, occupied in the folu- 
tion of an algebraical problem of conlidqrable 


* I have borrowed this fentence from a juft arid ele- 
gant chara&er of Dr Re id, which appeared, a few days 
after his death, in one of the Glafgow Journals. I had 
occafion frequently to verify the truth of the obfervation 
•during his laft vifit to Edinburgh. 


difficulty, in which, after the labour of a day or 
two, he at laft fucceeded. It was in the courfe 
of the fame fhort interval, that he committed to 
writingthofe particulars concerning his anceftors, 
which I have already mentioned. 

This active and ufeful life was now, however, 
drawing to a conclulion. A violent diforder at- 
tacked him about the end of September ; but does 
not feem to have occafioned much alarm to thofe 
about him, till he was vifited by Dr Cleghorn, 
who foon after communicated his apprehenlions^ 
in a letter to Dr Gregory. Among other fymp- 
toms, he mentioned particularly " that alteration 
" of voice and features, which, though not ealily 
" defcribed, is fo well known to all who have 
" opportunities of feeing life clofe." DrREio's 
own opinion of his cafe was probably the fame 
with that of his phyfician j as he expreffed to 
him on his nrfl vifit, his hope that he was 
" foon to get his difmiffion." After a fevere 
ftruggle, attended with repeated ftrokes of pal- 

fy, he died on the 7th of October following. 


Dr Gregory had the melancholy fatisfaction 

of viftting his venerable friend on his death- 

7 3 bed, 


bed, and of paying him this unavailing mar& 
of attachment, before his powers of recollection 
were entirely gone. 

The only furviving defcendant of Dr Reid 
is Mrs CarmichAel, a daughter worthy in eve- 
ry refpect of fuch a father : — long, the chief 
comfort and fupport of his old age, and his 
anxious nurfe in his laft moments *. 

In point of bodily confiitution, few men have 
been more indebted to nature than Dr Reid, 
His form was vigorous and athletic ; and his 
mufcular force (though he was fomewhat un- 
der the middle fize) uncommonly great ; — ad- 
vantages to which his habits of temperance 
and exercife, and the unclouded ferenity of his 
temper, did ample juitice. His countenance was 
ftrongly expreffive of deep and collected thought ; 
but when brightened up by the face of a friend, 
what chiefly caught the attention was, a look 
of good-will and of kindnefs. A picture of 
him, for which he confented, at the particular 
rcqueft of Dr Gregory, to fit to Mr Raeburn, 
during his laft vifit to Edinburgh, is generally 
and juftly ranked among the happier! perfor- 
mances of that excellent artift. The medal- 

* Note F. 


lion of Tassie, alfo, for which he fat in the eigh- 
ty-firft year of his age, prefents a very perfect 

I have little to add to what the foregoing pa- 
ges contain with refpect, to his character. Its 
moft prominent features were,— intrepid and in- 
flexible rectitude ; — a pure and devoted attach- 
ment to -truth ; — and an entire command (ac- 
quired by the unwearied exertions of a long 
life) over all his paffions. Hence, in thofe parts 
of his writings where his fubjecl forces him to 
difpute the conclusions of others, a fcrupulous 
rejection of every exprefiion calculated to irri- 
tate thofe whom he was anxious to convince : 
and a fpirit of liberality and good-humour to- 
wards his opponents, from which no afperity on 
their part could provoke him, for a moment, to 
deviate. The progrefs of ufeful knowledge, 
more efpecially in what relates to human na- 
ture and to -human life, he believed to be re- 
tarded rather than advanced by the intempe- 
rance of controverfy ; and to be fecured moll 
effectually when intrufted to the flow but irre- 
fiftible influence of fober rcafoning. That the 
argumentative talents of the difputants might 
be improved by fiich altercations, he was will- 

i 4 i n S 


ing to allow ; but, confidered in their con- 
nexion with the great obje&s which all claffes 
of writers profefs equally to have in view, he 
w r as convinced " that they have done more 
" harm to the practice, than they have done 
" fervice to the theory, of morality # ." 

In private life, no man ever maintained, 
more eminently or more uniformly, the dignity 
of philofophy % combining with the moft amia- 
ble modefty and gentlenefs, the nobler! fpirit of 
independence. The only preferments which he 
ever enjoyed, he owed to the unfolicited fa- 
vour of the two learned bodies who fucceffive- 
ly adopted him into their number ; and the re- 
fpectable rank which he fupported in fociety, 
was the well-earned reward of his own acade- 
mical labours. The fludies in which he de- 
lighted, were little calculated to draw on him 
the patronage of the great ; and he was un- 
billed in the art of courting advancement, by 
" fafhioning his doctrines to the varying hour." 

As a philofopher, his genius was more peculiar- 
ly characterized by a found, cautious, diftinguifh- 
jng judgment % by a Angular patience and per- 


* Prefacp to Pope's EJfay on Man, 


feverance of thought ; and by habits of the 
moft fixed and concentrated attention to his 
own mental operations; — endowments which, 
although not the molt fplendid in the eftimation, 
of the multitude, would feem entitled, from the 
hiftory of fcienpe, to rank among the rareft gifts 
of the mind. 

With thefe habits and powers, he united 
(what does not always accompany them) the 
curiolity of a naturalift, and the eye of an ob- 
ferver ; and, accordingly, his information a- 
bout every thing relating to phyflcal fcience, 
and to the ufeful arts, was extenfive and accu- 
rate. His memory for hirlorical details was 
not fo remarkable ; and he ufed fometimes to 
regret the imperfect: degree in which he poffeff- 
ed this faculty. I am inclined, however, to 
think, that in doing fo, he underrated his natu= 
ral advantages ; eftimating the Itrength of me- 
mory, as men commonly do, rather by the re- 
collection of particular fads, than by the pof- 
feffion of thofe general conclufions, from a fub- 
ferviency to which, fuch facts derive their prin- 
cipal value, 



Towards the clofe of life, indeed, his memory 
was much lefs vigorous than the other powers 
of his intellect ; in none of which, could I ever 
perceive any fymptom of decline. His ardour 
for knowledge, too, remained unextinguifhed 
to the laft ; and, when cheriihed by the fo- 
ciety of the young and inquifitive, feemed even 
to increafe with his years. What is ftill more-re- 
markable, he retained in extreme old age all 
the fympathetic tendernefs, and all the moral 
fenfibility of youth ; the livelinefs of his emo- 
tions, wherever the happinefs of others was con- 
cerned, forming an affecting contrail to his own 
unconquerable firmnefs under the fevereft; trials. 

Nor was the fenfibility which he retained, the 
felfiili and fterile offspring of tafte and indolence. 
It was alive and active, wherever he could 
command the means of relieving the diflreffes, 
or of adding to the comforts of others ; and 
was often felt in its effects, where 'he was un- 
feen and unknown. — Among the various proofs 
of this, which have happened to fall under my 
own knowledge, I cannot help mentioning par- 
ticularly (upon the moil unqueftionable autho- 
rity) the fecrecy with which he conveyed his 
pccafional benefactions to his former parifhioners 



at New-Machar, long after his eftablifhment at 
Glafgow. One donation, in particular, during the 
fcarcity of 1782, — a donation which, notwith- 
standing all his precautions, was diftinctly traced 
to his beneficence, — might perhaps have been 
thought di [proportionate to his limited income, 
had not his own fimple and moderate habits 
multiplied the refources of his humanity. 

His opinions on the moft important fubjecls 
are to be found in his works ; and that fpirit 
of piety which animated every part of his con- 
duel:, forms the bell comment on their practical 
tendency. In the ftate in which he found the 
philofophicai world, he believed, that his talents 
could not be fo ufefully employed, as in com- 
bating the fchemes of thofe who aimed at the 
complete fubverfion of religion, both natural 
and revealed ; — convinced with Dr Clarke ? 
that, " as Chriftianity prefuppofes the truth of 
" Natural Religion, whatever tends to difcre- 
4t dit the latter, muft have a proportionally 
" greater efFeci in weakening the authority of 
" the former *." In his views of both, he feems 


* ColleSion of Papers which paffed between Leibnitz and 

Clarke. See Dr Clarke's Dedication. 


to have coincided nearly with Bifhop Butler ; 
an author whom he held in the highefl eftimation. 
A very careful abftract of the treatife entitled 
Analogy, drawn up by Dr Re id, many years 
ago, for his own ufe, ftill exifts among his ma- 
nufcripts ; and the Ihort DifTertation on Virtue 
which Butler has annexed to that work, toge- 
ther with the Difcourfes on Human Nature pu- 
blished in his volume of Sermons, he ufed alwa'ys 
to recommend as the mod fatisfaclory account 
that has yet appeared of the fundamental prin- 
ciples of Morals : Nor could he conceal his re- 
gret, that the profound philofophy which thefe 
Difcourfes contain, mould of late have been fo 
generally fupplanted in England, by the fpccu- 
lations of fome other moralifts, who, while they 
profefs to idolize the memory of Locke, " ap- 
" prove little or nothing in his writings, but 
" his errors # ." 

Deeply impreffed, however, as he was with 
his own principles, he poflefled the moll perfect 


* I have adopted here, the words which Dr Clarke ap- 
plied to fome of Mr Locke's earlier followers. They 
are ftill more applicable to many writers of the prefent 
times. See Clarke's/^ Reply to Leibnitz. 


liberality towards all whom he believed to 
be honeitly and confcientioufly devoted to the 
fearch of truth. With one very diitinguifhed 
character, the late Lord Kames, he lived in 
the molt cordial and affectionate friendfhip, 
notwithstanding the avowed oppofkion of their 
fentiments on fome moral queftions, to which 
he attached the greateft importance. Both of 
them, however, were the friends of virtue and 
of mankind ; and both were able to temper the 
warmth of free difcuffion, with the forbearance 
and good humour founded on reciprocal elleem. 
No two men, certainly, ever exhibited a more 
fir iking contrail in their converfation, or in their 
conflitutional tempers : — the one, flow and cau- 
tious in his decilions, even on thofe topics 
which he had moll diligently fludied ; refer ved 
and filent in promifcuous fociety ; and retain- 
ing, after all his literary eminence, the fame 
fimple and unaJTuming manners which he 
brought from his country relidence :— the other, 
lively, rapid, and communicative; accuflom- 
ed, by his profeilional purfuits, to wield 
with addrefs the weapons of controverfy, and 
not averfe to a trial of his powers on. que- 


ftions the mofl foreign to his ordinary habits 
of inquiry. But thefe characleriftical dif- 
ferences, while to their common friends they 
lent an additional charm to the diftinguifhing 
merits of each, ferved only to enliven their fe- 
cial intercourfe, and to cement their mutual 

I recollect few, if any anecdotes, of Dr Reid, 
which appear to me calculated to throw addi- 
tional light on his character ; and I fufpecr 
Itrongly, that many of thofe which are to be 
met with in biographical publications, are more 
likely to miilead, than to inform. A trifling 
incident, it is true, may fometimes paint a pe- 
culiar feature better than the mofl elaborate de- 
fcription ; but a felection of incidents really 
characteriftical, prefuppofes, in the obferver, a 
rare capacity to difcriminate and to generalize ", 
and where thisxapacity is wanting, a biographer, 
with the moil fcrupulous attention to the vera- 
city of his details, may yet convey a very falfe 
conception of the individual he would defcribe. 
As, in the prefent inftance, my fubject afforded 
no materials for fuch a choice, I have attempt- 
ed, to the belt of my abilities, (inftead of retail- 


ing detached fragments of converfations, or re- 
cording infulated and unmeaning occurrences), 
to communicate to others the general irapref- 
lions which Dr Reid's character has left on my 
own mind. In this attempt, I am far from being 
confident that I have fucceeded \ but, how bar- 
ren foever I may have thus rendered my pages 
in the eftimation of thofe who conlider biogra- 
phy merely in the light of an amufing tale, I 
have, at leaft, the fatisfacf ion to think, that my 
picture, though faint in the colouring, does not 
prefent a diftorted refemblance of the original. 
The confidential correfpondence of an indi- 
vidual with his friends, affords to the ftudent 
of human nature, materials of far greater au- 
thenticity and importance ; — more particularly, 
the correfpondence of a man like Dr Re id, 
who will not be fufpecfed by thofe who knew 
him, of accommodating his letters (as has been 
alleged of Cicero) to the humours and prin- 
ciples of thofe whom he addrelfed. I am far, 
at the fame time, from thinking, that the cor- 
refpondence of Dr Reid Would be generally 
interefling ; or even that he excelled in this 
fpecies of writing : but few men, I fincerely be- 


lieve, who have written fomuch, have left behind 
them fuch unblemifhed memorials of their vir- 

At prefent, I mail only tranfcribe two letters, 
which I felect from a confiderable number 
now lying before me, as they feem to accord, 
more than the others, with the general delign 
of this Memoir. The firft (which is dated Ja- 
nuary 13. 1779) is addreffed to the Reverend 
William Gregory (now Rector of St Andrew's, 
Canterbury) then an Undergraduate in Balliol 
College, Oxford. It relates to a remarkable pe- 
culiarity in Dr Reid*s phyfical temperament, 
connected with the fubjedt of dreaming ; and is 
farther intereiting as a genuine record of fome 
particulars in his early habits, in which it is eafy 
to perceive the openings of a fuperior mind. 

" The fact which your brother the Doctor 
" delires to be informed of, was as you men- 
" tion it. As far as I remember the circumftan- 
" ces, they were as follow : 

" About the age of fourteen, I was, almoft eve- 
" ry night, unhappy in my fleep from frightful 
" dreams. Sometimes hanging over a dreadful 
" precipice, and juft ready to drop down ; fome- 
" times purfued for my life, and flopped by a 

" wall, 


" wall, or by a fudden lofs of all ftrength ; fome- 
" times ready to be devoured by a wild beaft. 
" How long I was plagued with fuch dreams, I 
" do not now recoiled:. I believe it was for a 
" year or two at leaft ; and I think they had 
" quite left me before I was fifteen. In thofe 
" days, I was much given to what Mr Addison", 
" iii one of his Spectators, calls C aflle -hull ding ; 
" and in my evening folitary walk, which was 
" generally all the exercife I took, my thoughts 
" would hurry me into fome active fcene, where 
" I generally acquitted myfelf much to my own 
" fatisfaclion ; and in thefe fcenes of imagina- 
" tion, I performed many a gallant exploit. At 
" the fame time, in my dreams I found myfelf 
" the molt arrant coward that ever was. Not 
" only my courage, but my ftrength, failed me 
" in every danger ; and I often rofe from my 
" bed in the morning in fuch a panic, that it 
" took fome time to get the better of it. I wifh- 
" ed very much to get free of thefe uneafy 
" dreams, which not only made me unhappy in 
" fleep, but often left a difagreeable impreflion in 
" my mind for fome part of the following day. 
" I thought it was worth trying, whether it was 
" pomble to recollect that it was all a dream, 

k ** and 


and that I was in no real danger. I often 
went to fleep .with my mind as ftrongly im- 
preiTed as I could with this thought, that I 
never in my lifetime was in any real danger, 
and that every fright I had was a dream. Af- 
ter many fruitlefs endeavours to recoiled: this 
when the danger appeared, I effected it at laft, 
and have often, when I was Hiding over a pre- 
cipice into the abyfs, recollected that it was 
all a dream, and boldly jumped down. The 
effect of this commonly was, that I imme- 
diately awoke. But I awoke calm and intre- 
pid, which I thought a great acquifition. Af- 
ter this, my dreams were never very uneafy; 
and, in a fhort time, I dreamed not at all. 
" During all this time, I was in perfect 
health \ but whether my ceafing to dream- 
was the effect of the recollection above men- 
tioned, or of any change in the habit of my 
body, which is ufual about that period of life, 
I cannot tell. I think it may more probably 
be imputed to the laft. However, the fact 
was, that, for at leaft forty years after, I 
dreamed none, to the belt of my remem- 
brance : and finding, from the teftimony of 
others, that this is fomewhat uncommon, I 

" have 


** have often, as foon as I awoke, endeavoured 
" to recollect, without being able to recoiled, 
" any thing that pail in my fleep. For fome 
" years part, I can fometimes recollecl; fome 
" kind of dreaming thoughts, but fo incoherent 
*'* that I can make nothing of them. 

" The only diftinct dream I ever had lince I 
" was about lixteen, as far as I remember, was 
" about two years ago. I had got my head 
" bliftered for a fall. A plafter which waft put 
" upon it after the blifter, pained me exceffive- 
'* ly for a whole night. In the morning I ilept 
" a little, and dreamed very diftinclly, that I 
" had fallen into the hands of a party of In- 
" dians, and was fcalped. 

, " I am apt to think, that as there is a ftate of 
" fleep, and a ftate wherein we are awake, fo 
" there is an intermediate ftate, which partakes 
" of the other two. If a man peremptorily re- 
" folves to rife at an early hour for fome Inte- 
" refting purpofe, he will of himfelf awake at 
" that hour. A fick-nurfe gets the habit of 
n fleeping in fuch a manner that fhe hears the 
" leaft whifper of the fick perfon, and yet is re- 
" frefhed by this kind of half fleep. The fame 
** is the cafe of a nurfe who fleeps with a child 

k 2 " ia 


" in her arms. I have flept on horfeback, but 
" fo as to preferve my balance ; and if the 
" horfe flumbled, I could make the exertion 
" neceffary for faving me from a fall, as if I 
", was awake. 

" I hope the fciences at your good Univerfity 
" are not in this Hate. Yet, from fo many 
" learned men, fo much at their eafe, one would 
" expect fomething more than we hear of." 

For the other letter, I am indebted to one of 
Dr Reid's molt intimate friends, to whom it 
was addreffed, in the year 1784, on occaiion of 
the melancholy event to which it alludes. 

" I fympathize with you very lincerely in 
*' the lofs of a moft amiable wife. I judge of 
" your feelings by the impreffion flie made up- 
" on my own heart, on a very fhort acquaint- 
" ance. But all the bleffings of this world are 
" traniient and uncertain ; and it would be but 
" a melancholy fcene,. if there were no profpect 
" of another. 

" I have often had occaiion to admire the re- 
" fignation and fortitude of young perfons, even, 
** of the weaker fex, in the views of death, 
" when their imagination is filled with all the, 
*■ gay profpecls which the world prefents at 

" that 


" that period. I have been witnefs to inftan- 
" ces of this kind, which I thought truly he- 

" roic, and I hear Mrs G gave a remark- 

" able one. 

" To fee the foul increafe in vigour and wif- 
" dom, and in every amiable quality, when 
" health and ftrength and animal fpirits decay ; 
" when it is to be torn by violence from all 
" that filled the imagination, and flattered hope, 
" is a fpeclacle truly grand, and inftructive to 
" the furviving. To think, that the foul pe- 
" rifhes in that fatal moment, when it is puri- 
" fied by this fiery trial, and fitted for the 
" nobler! exertions in another ftate, is an opi- 
" nion which I cannot help looking down upon,, 
" with contempt and difdain. 

" In old people, there is no more merit in 
" leaving this world with perfect acquiefcence, 
" than in rifing from a feaft after one is full. 
" When I have before me the profpect of the 
" infirmities, the diftreifes, and the peevifhnefs 
" of old age, and when I have already received 
" more than my fhare of the good things of this 
" life, it would be ridiculous indeed to be anxi- 
" ous about prolonging it ; but when 1 was 
" four and twenty, to have had no anxiety for 
k 3 " its 


" its continuance, would, I think, have required 
" a noble effort. Such efforts in thofe that are 
u called to make them, furely fhall not lofe 
il their reward." 

*4t J£- Ji Ji. 

'TV" VV" "TV" "Tv 

I have now finifhed all that the limits of my 
plan permit me to offer here, as a tribute to the 
memory of this excellent perfon. In the details 
which I have ftated, both with refpect to his pri- 
vate life and his fcientific purfuits, I have dwelt 
chiefly on fuch circumitances as appeared to me 
moft likely to intereft the readers of his Works, 
by illuftrating his character as a man, and his 
views as an author. Of his merits as an infrac- 
tor of youth, I have faid but little ; partly 
from a wifh to avoid unneceffary diffufenefs ; 
but chiefly from my anxiety to enlarge on thofe 
frill more important labours, of which he has 
bequeathed the fruits to future ages. And 
yet, had he left no fuch monument to perpe- 
tuate his name, the fidelity and zeal with which 
he difcharged, during fo long a period, the ob- 
fcure but momentous duties of his official fta- 
tion, would, in the judgment of the wife and 
good, have ranked him in the firft order of ufe- 



ful citizens. — " Nee enim is folus reipublicae 
" prodeft, qui candidatos extrahit, et tuetur 
** reos, et de pace belloque cenfet ; fed qui ju- 
** ventutem exhortatur ; qui, in tanta bonoruiri 
" prceceptorum inopia, virtute inftruit animos ; 
u qui, ad pecuniam luxuriamque curfu ruentes 
*' prenfat ac retrahit, et, fi nihil aliud, certe 
** moratur : in privato, publicum negotium 
« agit*. " 

In concluding this memoir, I trull I mail be 
pardoned, if, for once, I give way to a perfonal 
feeling, while I exprefs the fatisfa&ion with 
which I now clofe finally, my attempts as a 
Biographer. Thofe which I have already made ? 
were impofed on me by the irreliilible calls of 
duty and attachment ; and, feeble as they are, 
when compared with the magnitude of fubjects 
fo fplendid and fo various, they have encroach- 
ed deeply on that fmall portion of literary lei- 
fure which indifpenfable engagements allow me 
to command. I cannot, at the fame time, be 
infenlible to the gratification of having endea- 
voured to afTociaie, in fome degree, my name 
k 4 with 

* Seneca, Lc Tranquil!. An. Cap. 3. 


with three of the greateft which have adorned 
this age.;— -happy, if without deviating inten- 
tionally from truth, I may have fucceeded, how- 
ever imperfectly, in my wilh, to gratify, at once, 
the curiofity of the public, and to footh the recol- 
lections of furviving friends. — —But I, too, have 
deiigns and enterprizes of my own ; and the 
execution of thefe (which alas ! fyvell in mag- 
nitude, as the time for their accomplifhment 
haftens to a period) claims at length, an undi- 
vided attention. Yet I fhould not look back on 
the paft with regret, if I could indulge the hope, 
that the facts which it has been my province to 
record, — by difplaying thofe fair rewards of ex- 
tenfive ufefulnefs, and of permanent fame, which 
talents, and induftry, when worthily directed, 
cannot fail to fecure, — may contribute, in one 
fingle inilance, to fofter the proud and virtuous 
independence of genius ; or, amidft the gloom 
of poverty and folitude, to gild the diftant pro- 
fpect. of the unfriended fcholar^ whofe laurels 
are now flowly ripening in the unnoticed pri- 
vacy of humble life. 





Note A. Page 5. 

IN the account, given in the text, of Dr Reid's 
anceftors, I have followed fcrupuloufly the 
information contained in his own memorandums. 
I have fome fufpicion, however, that he has com- 
mitted a miltake with refped to the name of the 
tranflator of Buchanan's Hiftory ; which would 
appear, from the MS. in Glafgow College, to 
have been — not Adam, but John. At the fame 


* If another Edition of this Memoir fhould ever be 
called for, I rnuft requeft that the Printer may adhere to 
the plan which I myfelf have thought advifable to adopt, 
in the diftribution of my notes. A miflake which has 
been committed in a late Edition of my Life of Dr Ro- 
bertson, where a long Appendix is broken down into 
foot-notes, will fufficiently account for this requeft, to thofe 
who have feen that publication. 


time, as this laft ftatement refts on an authority- 
altogether unknown, (being written in a hand 
different from the reft of the MS.), there is a 
poffibility that Dr Reid's account may be cor- 
rect. ; and, therefore, I have thought it advife- 
able, in a matter of fo very trifling confequence, 
to adhere to it in preference to the other. 

The following particulars with refpedt to Tho- 
mas Reid may, perhaps, be acceptable to fome 
of my readers. They are copied from Demp- 
ster, a contemporary writer ; whofe details 
concerning his countrymen, it mull, however, 
be confefled, are not always to be implicitly re- 
lied on. 

" Thomas Reidus Aberdonenfis, pueritiag 
" mea? et infantilis otii fub Thoma Cargillo 
" collega, Lovanii literas in fchola Liplii ferid 
" didicit, quas magno nomine in Germania do- 
" cuit, carus Principibus. Londini diu in co- 
" mitatu humaniffimi ac clariffimi viri, Fulco- 
" nis Grevilli, Regii Conliliarii Interioris 
" et Anglias Proquaeftoris, egit : turn ad amici- 
" tiam Regis, eodem Fulcone deducente, evec- 
" tus, inter Palatinos adrninus, a Uteris Latinis 
u Regi fuit. Scripfit multa, ut eft magna indole 



" et varia eruditione," &c.--" Ex aula fe,nemine 
" confcio, nuper proripuit, dum illi omnia fef- 
" tinati honoris augmenta finguli ominarentur* 
" nee quid deinde egerit aut quo locorum fe 
** contulerit quifquam indicare potuit. Multi 
" fufpicabantur, tsedio aulse affectum, monafti- 
" cae quieti feipfum tradidifle, fub annum i6i8„ 
" Rumor poftea fuit in aulam rediiffe, et me- 
" ritiffimis honoribus redditum, fed nunquam 

** id confequetur quod virtus promeretur." 

HiJi.EccleJiaftica Gentis tfcotormn, lib. xvi. p. 576- 

What was the judgment of Thomas Reid's 
own times with refpeel to his genius, and what 
their hopes of his pofthumous fame, may be 
collected from an elegy on his death by his 
learned countryman Robert Aytoun. Alrea- 
dy, before the lapfe of two hundred years, fome 
apology, alas ! may be thought neceffary for an 
attempt to refcue his name from total oblivion, 

Aytoun's elegy on Reid is referred to in terms 
very flattering both to its author and to its fub- 
ject, by the editor of the Collection, entitled, 
" Poetarum Scotorum Mufa Sacra." " In obi- 
" turn Thomz Rheidi epicedium extat elegan- 
" tiinmum Roberti Aytoni, viri Uteris ac dig- 

" nitate 


" nitate clariffimi, in Deliciis Poetarum Scoto- 
** rum, ubi et ipiius quoque poemata, paucula 
" quidem ilia, fed venuita, fed elegantia, com- 
«* parent." 

The only works of Alexander Reid of which 
I have heard, are Chirurgical Leclures on Tu- 
tors and Ulcers, London 1635 ; and a treatife 
qf the Firjl Part of Chirurgerie, London 1638, 
He appears to have been the phyfician and friend 
of the celebrated mathematician Thomas Har- 
riott, of whofe interefting hiitory fo little was 
known, till the recent difcovery of his manu^ 
fcripts, by Mr Zach of Saxe-Gotha. 

A remarkable inftance of the carelefs or ca- 
pricious orthography formerly fo common in 
writing proper names, occurs in the different 
Individuals to whom this note refers. Some- 
times the family name is written — Reid; on 
other occalions, FJede, Read, Rhead or Rhaid. 

Note B. Page 7. 

Dr Turnbull's work on Moral Philofophy 
was publifhed at London in 1740. As I have 
only turned over a few pages, I cannot fay any 
thing with refpect to its merits. The mottos 
on the title-page are curious, when confidered 


OF THOMAS REID, D. D. civil 

in connexion with thofe inquiries which his pu- 
pil afterwards profecuted with fo much fuc- 
cefs ; and may, perhaps without his perceiving 
it, have had fome effect in fuggefting to him 
that plan of philofophizing which he fo fyfte- 
matically and fo happily purfued. 

" If Natural Philofophy, in all its parts, by 
" purfuing this method, fhall at length be per- 
" feezed, the bounds of Moral Philofophy will 
" alfo be enlarged." 

Newton's Optics. 

" Account for Moral, as for Natural things." 


For the opinion of a very competent judge 
with refpeel to the merits of the Treatife on An- 
cient Painting, vide Hogarth's Print, entitled, 

Note C. Page 35. 

" Dr Moor combined," &c] — James Moor, 
L L. D. Author of a very ingenious Fragment 
on Greek Grammar, and of other philological 
Eflays. He was alfo diftinguifhed by a profound 
acquaintance with ancient Geometry. Dr Sim- 


son, an excellent judge of his merits both in li- 
terature and fcience, has fomewhere honoured 
him with the following encomium : — " Turn 
in Mathefi, turn in Graecis Literis multum 
" et feliciter verfatus." 

" The Wilsons, (both father and fon)," Sec] 
— Alexander Wilson, M. D. and Patrick 
Wilson, Efq: well known over Europe by their 
Obfer various on the Solar Spots ; and many 
other valuable memoirs. 

Note D. Page 82. , 

A writer of great talents, (after having re- 
proached Dr Reid with " a grofs ignorance, dif- 
*'. graceful to the Univerfity of which he was a 
" member)," boafls of the trifling expenceof time 
and thought which it had colt himfelf to over- 
turn his Philofophy. " Dr Oswald is pleafed 
" to pay me a compliment in faying, that " I 
" might employ myfelf to more advantage to 
" the public, by purfuing other branches of fci- 
" ence, than by deciding rafhiy on a fubjed. 
" which he fees I have not ftudied." In return 
*' to this compliment, I fhall not affront him, by 

" telling 

OF THOMAS REID, D. D. • clix 

" telling him how very little of my time this 
" buiinefs has hitherto taken up. If he al- 
" ludes to my experiments, I can allure him, that 
4t I have loll no time at all ; for having been 
" intent upon fuch as require the ufeof a burn- 
" ing lens, I believe I have not loft one hour 
" of funlhine on this account. And the public 
" may perhaps be informed, fome time or other, 
" of what I have been doing in the fun, as well 

" as in the Jljade." Examination of Re id's 

Inquiry, &c. p. 357. See alfo pp. 101, 102. of 
the fame work. 

Note E. Page 114,. 

The following ftrictures on Dr Priestley's 
Examination, t#c. are copied from a very judi- 
cious note in Dr Campbell's Philofophy of Rhe- 
toric, Vol. I. p. in. 

" I fhall only fubjoin two remarks on this 

" book. The firft is, That the author, through 
" the whole, confounds two things totally di- 
u ftin6t, — certain aflbciations of ideas, and cer- 
" tain judgments implying belief, which, though 
" in fome, are not in all cafes, and therefore not 
" necejfarily connected with affociation, And 

" if 


if fo, merely to account for the affbciation, is 
in no cafe to account for the belief with 
which it is attended. Nay, admitting his plea, 
(p. 86.), that by the principle of aflbciation, 
not only the ideas, but the concomitant be- 
lief may be accounted for, even this does not 
invalidate the doctrine he impugns. For, let 
it be obferved, that it is one thing to affign a 
caufe, which, from the mechanifm of our na- 
ture, has given rife to a particular tenet of 
belief, and another thing to produce a reafon 
by which the understanding has been convin- 
ced. Now, unlefs this be done as to the prin- 
ciples in queflion, they muft be confidered as 
primary truths in refpect of the undemanding, 
which never deduced them from other truths, 
and which is under a neceffity, in all her mo- 
ral reafonings, of founding upon them. In 
fact, to give any other account of our convic- 
tion of them, is to confirm, inftead of confu- 
ting the doctrine, that in all argumentation 
they muft be regarded as primary truths, or 
truths which reafon never inferred through 
any medium, from other truths previoufly per- 
ceived. My fecond remark is, That though 

" this 

OF THOMAS REID, D. .U. clxi 

" this examiner has, from Dr Reid, given us a 
" catalogue of firft principles, which he deems 
" unworthy of the honourable place affigned 
" them, he has no where thought proper to give 
4 * us a lift of thofe felf-evident truths, which, by 
41 his own account, and in his own exprefs 
" words, " muft be affumed as the foundation 
" of all our reafoning." How much light might 
" have been thrown upon the fubjecl by the 
" contrail ! Perhaps we Ihould have been en- 
" abled, on the comparifon, to difcover fome 
" diftinctive characters in his genuine axioms, 
" which would have preferved us from the dan- 
" ger of confounding them with their fpurious 
" ones. Nothing is more evident than that, in 
" whatever regards matter of fact, the mathe- 
M matical axioms will not anfwer. Thefe are 
" purely fitted for evolving the abftract. rela- 
" tions of quantity. This he in effect owns 
" himfelf (p. 39.) It would have been obliging, 
" then, and would have greatly contributed to 
" fhorten the controverfy, if he had given us, at 
" leaft, a fpecimen of thofe feif-evident prin- 
" ciples, which, in his eftimation, are the non 
'* phis ultra of moral reafoning." 

I Note 


Note F. Page 134. 

Dr Reid's father, the Reverend Lewis Reid, 
married, for his fecond wife, Janet, daughter 
of Mr Fraser of Phopachy, in the county 
of Invernefs. A daughter of this marriage is 
llill alive ; the wife of the Reverend Alex- 
ander Leslie, and the mother of the Reverend 
Tames Leslie, minifters of Fordoun. To the 
latter of thefe gentlemen, I am indebted for the 
greater part of the information I have been 
able to collect with refpect to Dr Reid, previ- 
ous to his removal to Glafgow ; — Mr Leslie's 
regard for the memory of his uncle having 
prompted him, not only to tranfmit to me fuch 
particulars as had fallen under his own know- 
ledge, but fome valuable letters on the fame fub- 
ject, which he procured from his relations and 
friends in the north. 

For all the members of this moll refpectable 
family, Dr PvEId entertained the ftrongeft fenti- 
ments of affection and regard. During feve- 
ral years before his death, a daughter of Mrs 
Leslie's was a conftant inmate of his houfe, 


OF THOMAS RJEID, D. D. clxiii, 

and added much to. the happinefs of his, fmall 
domeftic circle. 

Another daughter of Mr Lewis Re id was 
married to the Reverend John Rose, minifter 
of Udny. She died in 1793. — In this con- 
nexion, Dr Reid was no lefs fortunate than 
in the former ; and to Mr Rose I am indebted 
for favours of the fame kind with thofe which. 
I have already acknowledged from Mr Les- 

The widow of Mr Lewis Reid died in 1798, 
in the eighty-feventh year of her age ; having 
furvived her ftep-fon Dr Reid, more than a 

The limits within which I was obliged to 
confine my biographical details, prevented me 
from availing myfelf of many interefting circum- 
fhances which were communicated to me through 
the authentic channels which I have now men- 
tioned. But I cannot omit this opportunity of 
returning to my different correfpondents, my 
warmefl acknowledgments for the pleafure 
and inftruction which I received from their let- 



Mr Jardine, alfo, the learned Profeffor of Lo- 
gic in the Univerfity of Glafgow, a gentleman, 
who, for many years, lived in habits of the moft 
confidential intimacy with Dr Reid and his fa- 
mily, is entitled to my bell thanks for his obli- 
ging attention to various queries, which I took 
the liberty to propofe to him, concerning the hif- 
tory of our common friend. 


P. xv. 1. 8. for Arbuthnot read Pitcairn 






C H. A P. L 

Explication of Words. 

THERE is no greater impediment to the 
advancement of knowledge than the am- 
biguity of words. To this chiefly it is owing 
that we find feels and parties in molt branches 
\)f fcience ; and dilputes, which are carried on 
from age to age, without being brought to an 

Sophiftry has been more effectually excluded 

from mathematics and natural philofophy than 

from other feien'ces. In mathematics it had no 

• Vol. I. B place 


place from the beginning : Mathematicians ha- 
ving had the wifdom to define accurately the 
terms they ufe, and to lay down, as axioms, the 
firft principles on which their reafoning is 
grounded. Accordingly we find no parties among 
mathematicians, and hardly any difputes. 

In natural philofophy, there was no lefs fo- 
phiftry, no lefs difpute and uncertainty, than in 
other fciences r until, about a century and a half 
ago, this fcience began to be built upon the 
foundation of clear definitions and felf-evident 
axioms. Since that time, the fcience, as if wa-s 
tered with the dew of Heaven, hath grown 
apace ; difputes have ceafed, truth hath prevail- 
ed, and the fcience hath received greater in- 
creafe in two centuries than in two thoufand 
years before. 

It were to be wifhed, that this method, which 
hath been fo fuccefsful in thofe branches of 
fcience, were attempted in others : For defini- 
tions and axioms are the foundations of all 
fcience. But that definitions may not be fought, 
where no definition can be given, nor logical de- 
finitions be attempted, where the fubjecl: does, 
not admit of them, it may be proper to lay dow^ 
fonie general principles concerning definition, 
for the fake of thofe who are lefs converfant in 
this branch of logic. 

When one undertakes to explain any art or 

fcience, he will have occafion to ufe many words, 

2 that 


that are common to all who ufe the fame lan- 
guage, and fome that are peculiar to that art or, 
lcience. Words of the laft kind are called terms 
of the art, and ought to be diftindtly explained, 
that their meaning may be underftood. % 

A definition is nothing elfe but an explica- 
tion of the meaning of a word, by words whofe 
meaning is already known. Hence it is evi- 
dent, that every word cannot be defined ; for 
the definition mult confiit of words ; and there 
could be no definition, if there were not words 
previoudy underftood without definition. Com- 
mon words, therefore, ought to be ufed in their 
common acceptation ; and, when they have dif- 
ferent acceptations in common language, thefe, 
when it is neceflary, ought to be diftinguilned. 
But they require no definition. It is fuflicient 
to define words that are uncommon, or that are 
ufed in an uncommon meaning. 

It may farther be obferved, that there are 
many words, which, though they may need ex- 
plication, cannot be logically defined. A logi- 
cal definition, that is, a ftrict and proper defini- 
tion, mull exprefs the kind of the thing defined, 
and the fpecific difference, by which the fpecies 
defined, is diftinguiiTied from every other fpe- 
cies belonging to that kind. It is natural to the 
mind of man to clafs things under various kinds, 
and again to fubdivide every kind into its vari- 
ous fpecies. A fpecies may often be fubdivided 
B -2 into 

20 ESSAY I. [CHAP. I„ 

into fubordinate fpecies, and then It is confider- 
ed as a kind. 

From what has been faid of logical definition, 
it is evident, that no word can be logically de- 
fined which does not denote a fpecies ; becaufe 
fuch things only can have a fpecific difference ; 
and a fpecific difference is effential to a logical 
definition. On this account there can be no lo- 
gical definition of individual things, fuch as 
London or Paris. Individuals are diftinguifhed 
either by proper names, or by accidental cir- 
cumitances of time or place ; but they have no 
fpecific difference ; and therefore, though they 
may be known by proper names, or may be de- 
fcribed by circumftances or relations, they can- 
not be defined. It is no lefs evident, that the 
molt general words cannot be logically defined^ 
becaufe there is not a more general term, of 
which they are a fpecies. 

Nay, we cannot define every fpecies of things, 
becaufe it happens fometimes that we have not 
words to exprefs the fpecific difference. Thus 
a fcarlet colour is, no doubt, a fpecies of colour; 
but how fliall we exprefs the fpecific difference 
by which fcarlet is diftinguiihed from green or 
blue ? The difference of them is immediately 
perceived by the eye ; but we have not words 
to exprefs it. Thefe things we are taught by 



Without having recourfe to the principles of 
logic, we may eafily be fatisfied that words can- 
not be defined, which fignify things perfectly 
ilmple, and void of all compofition. This ob- 
fervation, I think, was firft made by Des Car- 
tes, and afterwards more fully iiluftrated by 
Locke. And however obvious it appears to be, 
many inftances may be given of great philofo- 
phers who have perplexed and darkened the 
fubjects they have treated, by not knowing, or 
not attending to it. 

When men attempt to define things which 
cannot be defined, their definitions will always 
be either obfcure or falfe. It was one of the ca- 
pital defects of Aristotle's philofophy, that he 
pretended to define the fimpleft things, which 
neither can be, nor need to be defined ; fuch as 
time and motion. Among modern philofophers, 
I know none that has abufed definition fo much 
as Wolfius, the famous German philofopher, 
who, in a work on the human mind, called 
Pfychologia Empirica, confiding of many hun- 
dred proportions, fortified by demonilrations, 
with a proportional accompanyment of defini- 
tions, corollaries, and fchoiia, has given fo ma- 
ny definitions of things, which cannot be defi- 
ned, and fo many demonstrations of things felf- 
evident, that the greatefc part of the work con- 
lifts of tautology, and ringing changes upon 

B -x Sphere 

22 ESSAY 1. [CHAP. I, 

There is no fubject in which there is more 
frequent occaiion to ufe words that cannot be 
logically defined, than in treating of the powers 
and operations of the mind. The fimpleft opera- 
tions of our minds rauft all be expreffed by words 
of this kind. No man can explain by a logical 
definition what it is to think, to apprehend, to 
believe, to will, to defire. Every man who un- 
derftands the language has fome notion of the 
meaning of thefe words ; and every man, who is 
capable of reflection, may, by attending to the 
operations of his own mind, which are fignified 
by Lhem, form a clear and diftind: notion of 
them ; but they cannot be logically denned. 

Since therefore it is often impoffible to de- 
fine words which we muft ufe on this fubjecl, 
we muft as much as poffible ufe common words 
in their common acceptation, pointing out their 
various fenfes where they are ambiguous ; and 
when we are obliged to ufe words lefs common, 
we muft endeavour to explain them as well as 
we can, without affecting to give logical defini- 
tions, when the nature of the thing does not ad- 
mit of them. 

The following obfervations on the meaning of 
certain words are intended to fupply, as far as 
we can, the want of definitions, by preventing 
ambiguity or obicurity in the ufe of them. 

I. By the mind of a man, we underftand that 
in him which thinks, remembers, reafons, wills. 



The effence both of body and of mind is un- 
known to us. We know certain properties of 
the firft, and certain operations of the laft, and 
by thefe only we .can define or defcribe them. 
We define body to be that which is extended,, 
folid, moveable, divifible* In like manner, we 
define mind to be that which thinks. We are 
confcious that we think, and that we have a va- 
riety of thoughts of different kinds ; fuch as fee- 
ing, hearing, remembering, deliberating, refol- 
ving, loving, hating, and many other kinds of 
thought, all which we are taught by nature to 
attribute to one internal principle ; and this 
principle of thought we call the mind or foul of 
a man. 

2. By the operations of the mind, we under- 
Hand every mode of thinking of which we are 

It deferves our notice, that the various modes 
of thinking have always, and in all languages, 
as far as we know, been called by the name of 
Operations of the inind, or by names of the fame 
import. To body we alcribe various properties, 
but not operations, properly fo called ; it is ex- 
tended, divifible, moveable, inert ; it continues 
in any ftate in which it is put ; every change of 
its ftate is the effect of i me force imprefled up- 
on it, and is exactly proportional to the force 
ImprefTed, and in the precife direction of that 
force. Thcfe are the general properties of mat- 

B 4 ter. 

^4 E S S AY I. [CHAP. I, 

ter, and thefe are not operations ; on the con- 
trary, they all imply its being a dead inactive 
■ thing, which moves only as it is moved, and acts 
only by being acted upon. 

But the mind is from its very nature a living 
and active being. Every thing we know of it 
implies life and active energy ; and the reaibn 
why ail its modes of thinking are called its ope- 
rations, is, that in all, or in molt of them, it is 
not merely paffive as body is, but is really and 
properly active. 

In all ages, and in all languages, ancient and 
modern, the various modes of thinking have 
been expreffed by words of active iignification, 
fuch as feeing, hearing, reafoning, willing, and 
the liirvc, It feems therefore to be the natural 
judgment of mankind, that the mind is active 
in its various ways of thinking ; and for this 
reafon they are called its operations, and are 
expreffed by active verbs. 

It may be made a quejtion, What regard is to. 
be paid to this natural judgment ? may it not 
be a vulgar error ? Philofophers who think fo, 
have, no doubt, a right to be heard. But until 
it is proved that the mind is not active in think- 
ing, but merely p arrive, the common language 
with regard to its operations ought to be ufed, 
and ought not to give place to a phrafeology in- 
vented by Philqfophers, which implies its being' 
merely pafiive. . 

3. The 


3. The words power and faculty, which are 
often ufed in fpeaking of the mind, need little 
explication. Every operation fuppofes a power 
in the being that operates ; for, to fuppofe any 
thing to operate, which has no power to operate, 
is manifeftly abfurd. But, on the other hand, 
there is no abfurdity in fuppofing a being to 
have power to operate, when it does not operate. 
Thus, I may have power to walk, when I fit ; 
or to fpeak, when I am filent. Every operation 
therefore implies power ; but the power does 
not imply the operation. 

The faculties of the mind, and its powers, 
are often ufed as fynonymous expreffions. But 
as moil fynonymes have fome minute diflinclion 
that deferves notice, I apprehend that the word 
faculty is moil properly applied to thofe powers 
of the mind which are original and natural, and 
which make a part of the conftitution of the 
mind. There are other powers which are acqui- 
red by ufe, exercife or ftudy, which are not call- 
ed faculties, but habits. There muil be fome- 
thing in the conftitution of the mind neceflary 
to our being able to acquire habits, and this is 
commonly called capacity. 

4. We frequently meet with a diltin&ion in 
writers upon this fubject, between things in the 
mind, and things external to the mind. The 
powers, faculties, and operations of the mind, 
are things in the mind. Every thing is faid to 


26 ESSAY I. [CHAP. I. 

be in the mind, of which the mind is the fub- 
jefl. It is felf-evident, that there are fome 
things which cannot exift without a fubject to 
which they belong, and of which they are at- 
tributes. Thus, colour muft be in fomething 
coloured ; figure in fomething figured ; thought 
can only be in fomething that thinks \ wifdom 
and virtue cannot exift but in fome being that 
is wife and virtuous. When therefore we fpeak 
of things in the mind, we underftand by this, 
things of which the mind is the fubject. Ex- 
cepting the mind itfelf, and things in the mind, 
all other things are faid to be external. It ought 
therefore to be remembered, that this diftinction 
between things in the mind, and things exter- 
nal, is not meant to fignify the place of the 
things we fpeak of, but their fubjec~t. 

There is a figurative fenfe in which things 
are faid to be in the mind, which it is fufficient 
barely to mention. We fay, fuch a thing was 
not in my mind, meaning no more than that I 
had not the leaft thought of it. By a figure, 
we put the thing for the thought of it. In this 
fenfe, external things are in the mind as often 
as they are the objects of our thought. 

5. Thinking is a very general word, which in- 
cludes all the operations of our minds, and is fo 
well underftood as to -need no definition. 

To perceive, to remember, to be confcious, and 
to conceive or imagine, are words common to 



Philofophers, and to the vulgar. They fignify 
different operations of the mind, which are di- 
ftinguifhed in all languages, and by all men that 
think. I mail endeavour to ufe them in their 
moil common and proper acceptation, and I 
think they are hardly capable of ftrict defini- 
tion. But as fome Philofophers, in treating of 
the mind, have taken the liberty to ufe them 
very improperly, fo as to corrupt the Engiilh 
language, and to confound things, which the 
common underitanding of mankind hath always 
led them to diftinguilh, I fhall make fome ob- 
fervations on the meaning of them, that may 
prevent ambiguity or confuiicn in the ufe of 

6. Firft, We are never faid to perceive things, 
of the exiitence of which we have not a full 
convict ion. I may conceive or imagine a moun- 
tain of gold, or a winged horfe ; but no man 
fays that he perceives fuch a creature of imagi- 
nation. Thus perception is diilinguifhed from 
conception or imagination. Secondly, Perception 
is applied only to external objects, not to thofe 
that are in the mind itfelf. When I am pained, 
I do not fay that I perceive pain, but that I feel 
it, or that I am confcious of it. Thus percep- 
tion is diftinguilhed from confcioufnefs. Thirdly, 
The immediate object of perception mull be 
fomething prefent, and not what is paft. We 
snay remember what is palt, but do not perceive 


28 ESS AY r. [chap. I. 

it. I may fay, I perceive fuck a perfon has had 
the {mall-pox ; but this phrafe is figurative, al- 
though the figure is fo familiar that it is not ob- 
ferved. The meaning of it is, ' that I perceive 
the pits in his face, which are certain ligns of 
Ms having had the fmall-pox. We fay we per- 
ceive the thing fignified, when we only perceive 
the ngn. ■ But when the word perception is ufed 
properly, and without any figure, it is never ap- 
plied to things pall. And thus it is diftinguifh- 
ed from remembrance. 

In a word, perception is moil properly applied 
to the evidence which we have of external ob- 
jects by our fenfes. But as this is a very clear 
snd cogent kind of evidence, the word is often 
applied by analogy to the evidence of reafon or 
of testimony, when it is clear and cogent. The 
perception of external objects by our fenfes, is 
an operation of. the mind of a peculiar nature, 
and ought to have a name appropriated to it. 
It has fo in all languages. And, in the Engliih, 
I know no word more proper to exprefs this act 
of the mind than perception. Seeing, hearing, 
fmelling 7 tailing, and touching or feeling, are 
words that exprefs the operations proper to each 
fenfe ; perceiving exprefles that which is com- 
mon to them all. 

The obfervations made on this word would 
have been unneceflary, if it had not been fo 
much abufed in pliilofophical writings upon the 

mind - t 


mind ; for, in other writings, it has no obfcuri- 
ty. Although this abufe is not chargeable o& 
Mr Hume only, yet I think he has carried it to 
the higheft pitch. The firfl fentence of his 
Treatife of Human Nature runs thus : " All 
" the perceptions of the human mind refolve 
" themfelves into two diftinct heads, which I 
" fhall call impreffions and ideas.' He adds a 
little after, that, under the name of impreffions^ 
he comprehends all our fenfations, pafiions, and. 
emotions. Here we learn, that our pafiions and. 
emotions are perceptions. I believe, no Englilk 
writer before him ever gave the name of a per- 
ception to any paffion or emotion. When a man 
is angry, we muft fay that he has the perception 
of anger. When he is in love, that he has the 
perception of love. He fpeaks often of the per- 
ceptions of memory, and of the perceptions of 
imagination ; and he might as well fpeak of the 
hearing of light, or of the fmelling of touch : 
For, furely, hearing is not more different from 
fight, or fmelling from touch, than perceiving is 
from remembering or imagining. 

7. Confcioufnefs is a word ufed by Phiiofo- 
phcrs, to fignify that immediate knowledge 
which we have of our prefents thoughts and 
purpofes, and, in general, of all the prefent ope- 
rations of our minds. Whence we may obferve, 
that confcioufnefs is only of things prefent. To 
apply confcioufnefs to things paft, which fome- 


$& feSSAY I, [CHAP. I. 

times is done in popular difcourfe, is to confound 
confcioufnefs with memory : and all fiich con* 
fufion of words ought to be avoided in philofo- 
phical difcourfe* It is likewife to be obferved, 
that confcioufnefs is only of things in the mind, 
and not of external things. It is improper to 
fay, I am confcious of the table which is before 
me. I perceive it, I fee it, but do not fay I am 
confcious of it. As that confcioufnefs by which 
we have a knowledge of the operations of our 
own minds, is a different power from that by 
which we perceive external objects, and as thefe 
different powers have different names in our lan- 
guage, and r I believe, in all languages, a Philo- 
fopher ought carefully to preferve this diftinc- 
tion, and never to confound things fo different 
in their nature. 

8. Conceiving, imagining, and apprehending, 
are commonly ufed as fynonymous in our lan- 
guage, and ngnify the fame thing which the Lo- 
gicians cdWJimple apprehenjion. This is an ope- 
ration of the mind different from all thofe we 
have mentioned. Whatever we perceive, what- 
ever we remember, whatever we are confcious. 
of, we have a full perfualion or conviction of it& 
exiftence. But we may conceive or imagine 
what has no exiftence, and what we firmly be- 
lieve to have no exiftence. What never had an 
exiftence cannot be remembered ; what has no 
exiftence at prefent cannot be the object: of per- 


ception or of confcioufnefs ; but what never had, 
nor has any exiftence, may be conceived. E- 
very man knows, that it is as eafy to conceive a 
winged horfe or a centaur, as it is to conceive a 
horfe or a man. Let it be obferved therefore, 
that to conceive, to imagine, to apprehend, when 
taken in the proper fenfe, fignify an act of 
the mind which implies no belief or judg- 
ment at all. It is an act of the mind by which 
nothing is affirmed or denied, and which there- 
fore can neither be true nor falfe. 

But there is another and a very different mean- 
ing of thofe words, fo common and fo well au- 
thorifed in language, that it cannot eafily be 
avoided ; and on that account we ought to be 
the more on our guard, that we be not milled by 
the ambiguity. Politenefs and good-breeding 
lead men, on mod occalions, to exprefs their 
opinions with modefhy, efpecially when they 
differ from others whom they ought to re- 
ipecl:. Therefore, when we would exprefs our 
opinion modeftly, inftead of faying, " This is 
my opinion," or, "this is my judgment," which 
has the air of dogmaticalnefs, we fay, " I con- 
" ceive it to be thus, I imagine or apprehend it 
" to be thus;" which is underltood as a model! 
declaration of our judgment. In like manner, 
when any thing is laid which we take to be im- 
poinble, we fay, " We cannot conceive it," 
meaning, that w© cannot believe it. . 


%2 ESSAY I. [CHAP. Ic' 

Thus we fee, that the words conceive, imagine, 
apprehend, have two meanings, and are ufed to 
exprefs two operations of the mind, which 
ought never to be confounded. Sometimes they 
exprefs limple apprehenlion, which implies no 
judgment at all ; fometimes they exprefs judg- 
ment or opinion. This ambiguity ought to 
te attended to, that we may not impofe upon 
ourfelves or others in the ufe of them. The am- 
biguity is indeed remedied in a great meafure by 
their conftruction. When they are ufed to ex- 
prefs limple apprehenlion, they are followed by 
a noun in the accufative cafe, which lignines the 
object conceived. But when they are ufed to 
exprefs opinion or judgment, they are common- 
ly followed by a verb in the infinitive mood. " I 
" conceive an Egyptian pyramid. This implies 
no judgment. " I conceive the Egyptian py- 
" ramids to be the molt ancient monuments of 
" human art." This implies judgment. When 
the words are ufed in the laft fenfe, the thing 
conceived mull be a propofition, becaufe judg- 
ment cannot be expreffed but by a proportion. 
When they are ufed in the firft fenfe, the thing 
conceived may be no propofition, but a fimple 
term only, as a pyramid, an obelifk. Yet it 
may be obferved, that even a propofition may 
be fimply apprehended without forming any 
judgment of its truth or falfehood: For it is 
one thing to conceive the meaning of a propofi- 
tion ; 


tion ; it is another thing to judge it to be true 
or falfe. 

Although the diftinction between limple appre- 
henlion, and every degree of affent or judgment, 
be perfectly evident to every man who reflects 
attentively on what paffes in his own mind ; al- 
though it is very neceffary, in treating of the 
powers of the mind, to attend carefully to this 
diftinction ; yet, in the affairs of common life, it 
is feldom neceifary to obferve it accurately. On 
this account we mall find, in all common lan- 
guages, the words wiiich exprefs one of thofe ope- 
rations frequently applied to the other. To think, 
to fuppofe,to imagine, to.conceive, to apprehend, 
are the words we ufe to exprefs limple appre- 
henfion ; but they are all frequently ufed to ex- 
prefs judgment. Their ambiguity feldom oc- 
cafions any inconvenience in the common affairs 
0/ life, for which language is framed. But it 
has perplexed Philofophers, in treating of the 
operations of the mind, and will always perplex 
them, if they do not attend accurately to the 
different meanings which are put upon thofe 
words on different occafions. 

9. Molt of the operations of the mind, from 
their very nature, mult have objecls to which 
they are directed, and about which they are 
employed. He that perceives, muft perceive 
fomething ; and that which he perceives is call- 
ed the object of his perception. To perceive, 

Vol. I. C without 

34 £ssay i. [chap. i. 

without having any object of perception, is im- 
poffible. The mind that perceives, the object 
perceived, and the operation of perceiving that 
object, are diflinct things, and are diftinguifhed 
in the ftructure of all languages. In this fen- 
tence, " I fee, or perceive the moon;" / is the 
perfon or mind; the active verb fee denotes the 
operation of that mind ; and the moon denotes 
the object. What we have faid of perceiving, 
is equally applicable to moll operations of the 
mind. Such operations are, in all languages, 
expreffed by active tranfitive verbs: And we 
know, that, in all languages, fuch verbs require 
a thing or perfon, which is the agent, and a 
noun following in an oblique cafe, which is the 
object. Whence it is evident, that all man- 
kind, both thofe who have contrived language, 
and thofe who ufe it with underftanding, have 
diftinguifhed thefe three things as different, to 
wit, the operations of the mind, which are ex- 
preffed by active verbs, the mind itfelf, which 
is the nominative to thofe verbs, and the object, 
which is, in the oblique cafe, governed by 

It would have been unnecelfary to explain fo 
obvious a diflinction, if fome fyftems of philo- 
fophy had not confounded it. Mr Hume's fy- 
flem, in particular, confounds all diflinction be- 
tween the operations of the mind and their ob- 
jects. When he fpeaks of the ideas of memo- 


-ry, the ideas of imagination, and the ideas of 
fenfe, it is often impoffible, from the tenor of 
his difcourfe, to know whether, by thofe ideas, 
he means the operations of the mind, or the 
objects about which they are employed. And 
indeed, according to his fyftem, there is no di- 
flinction between the one and the other. 

A philofopher is, no doubt, entitled to exa- 
mine even thofe diftinctions that are to be found 
in the ftructure of all languages ; and, if he is 
able to lliew that there is no foundation for 
them in the nature of the things diftinguifhed ; 
if he can point out fome prejudice common to 
mankind which has led them to diftinguiili 
things that are not really different * in that cafe, 
fuch a distinction may be imputed to a vulgar 
error, which ought to be corrected in philo- 
fophy. But when, in the firft fetting out, he 
takes it for granted, without proof, that diftinc- 
tions found in the ftructure of all languages, 
have no foundation in nature ; this furely is too 
faftidious a way of treating the common fenfe 
of mankind. When we come to be inftru^ted 
by Philofophers, we muft bring the old light of 
common fenfe along with us, and by it judge of 
the new light which the Philofopher communi- 
cates to us. But when we are required to put 
out the old light altogether, that we may fol- 
low the new, we have reafon to be on our 
guard. There may be diftinctions that have a 
C 2 real 


36 ES S AY I. [CHAP. I. 

real foundation, and which may be neceflary in 
philofophy, which are not made in common 
language, becaufe not neceflary in the common 
bufinefs of life. But I believe no inflance will 
be found of a diftinclion made in all languages, 
which has not a juil foundation in nature. 

10. The word idea occurs fo frequently in 
modern philofophical writings upon the mind, 
and is fo ambiguous in its meaning, that it is 
neceflary to make fome obfervations upon it. 
There are chiefly two meanings of this word 
in modern authors, a popular and a philofophi- 

Firjl, In popular language, idea fignifies the 
fame thing as conception, apprehenlion, notion. 
To have an idea of any thing, is to conceive it. 
To have a diflincl: idea, is to conceive it di- 
ftinctly. To have no idea of it, is not to con- 
ceive it all. It was before obferved, that con- 
ceiving or apprehending has always been con- 
fidered by all men as an ad or operation of the 
mind, and on that account has been exprefied 
in all languages by an active verb. When, 
therefore, we ufe the phrafe of having ideas, in 
the popular fenfe, we ougftt to attend to this, 
that it fignifies precifely the fame thing which 
we commonly exprefs by the aclive verbs con- 
ceiving or apprehending. 

When the word idea is taken in this popular 
fenfe, no man can pofilbly doubt whether he 



lias ideas. For he that doubts mull think, and 
to think is to have ideas. 

Sometimes, in popular language, a man's ideas 
fignify his opinions. The ideas of Aristotle, 
or of Epicurus, lignify the opinions of thefe 
Philofophers. What was formerly faid of the 
words imagine, conceive, apprehend, that they are 
fbmetimes ufed to'exprefs judgment, is no lefs 
true of the word idea. This lignification of 
the word feems indeed more common in the 
French language than in Englifh. But it is 
found in this fenfe in good Englifh authors, and 
even in Mr Locke. Thus we fee, that having 
ideas, taken in the popular fenfe, has precifely 
the fame meaning with conceiving, imagining, 
apprehending, and has likewife the fame ambi- 
guity. It may, therefore, be doubted, whether 
the introduction of this word into popular dif- 
courfe, to lignify the operation of conceiving or 
apprehending, was at all necelfary. For, firjl, 
We have, as has been fhown, feveral words 
which are either originally Englifh, or have 
been long naturalized, that exprefs the fame 
thing; why therefore mould we adopt a Greek 
word in place of thefe, any more than a French 
or a German word ? Befides, the words of our 
own language are lefs ambiguous. For the 
word idea has, for many ages, been ufed by 
Philofophers as a term of art ; and in the dif- 
G 3 ferent 

38 ES S AY I. [CHAP. I. 

ferent fyftems of Philofophers means very diffe- 
rent things. 

Secondly, According to the philofophical mean- 
ing of the word idea, it does not fignify that 
act of the mind which we call thought or con- 
ception, but fome object of thought. Ideas, 
according to Mr Locke, (whofe very fre- 
quent ufe of this word has probably been the 
occafion of its being adopted into common lan- 
guage), " are nothing but the immediate ob- 
" jects of the mind in thinking." But of thofe 
objects of thought called Ideas, different fects 
of Philofophers have given a very different ac- 
count Bruckerus, a learned German, wrote a 
whole book giving the hiftory of ideas. 

The mofl ancient fyftem we have concerning 
ideas, is that which is explained in feveral dia- 
logues of Plato, and which many ancient, as 
well as modern writers, have afcribed to Plato 
as the inventor. But it is certain that Plato 
had his doctrine upon this fubject, as well as 
the name idea, from the ichool of Pythagoras. 
We have flill extant a tract, of TiMiEus the 
Locrian, a Pythagorean Philofopher, concern- 
ing the foul of the world, in which we find the 
fubftance of Plato's doctrine concerning ideas. 
They were held to be eternal, uncreated, and 
immutable forms or models, according to which 
the Deity, of an eternal matter, made every fpe- 
cies of things that exiils. Thofe Philofophers 



held, that there are three firft principles of all 
things. Firjl, An eternal matter, of which all 
things were made : Secondly, Eternal and im- 
material forms or ideas, according to which they 
were made : And, thirdly. An efficient caufe, 
the Deity, who made them. The mind of man, 
in order to its being fitted for the contemplation 
of thefe eternal ideas, muft undergo a certain 
purification, and be weaned from fenfible things. 
The eternal ideas are the only object of fcience ; 
becaufe, the objects of fenfe being in a perpe- 
tual flux, there can be no real knowledge with 
regard to them. 

The Philofophers of the Alexandrian fchool, 
commonly called the latter Platonifts, made fome 
change upon the fyftem of the ancient Platonifts 
with refpect to the eternal ideas. They held 
them not to be a principle diftinct from the 
Deity, but to be the conceptions of things in the 
divine underftanding, the natures and efiences 
of all things being perfectly known to him from 

It ought to be obferved, that the Pythago- 
reans, and the Platonifts whether elder or latter, 
made the eternal ideas to be objects of fcience 
only, and of abftract contemplation, not the ob- 
jects of fenfe. And in this the ancient fyftem 
of eternal ideas differs from the modern one of 
Father Malebranche. He held in common 
with other modern Philofophers, that no external 
C 4 thing 

4© E S S AY I. [CHAP. I, 

thing is perceived by us immediately, but only 
by ideas : But he thought, that the ideas, by 
which we perceive an external world, are the 
ideas of the Deity himfelf, in whofe mind the 
ideas of all things, pail, prefent, and future, 
muft have been from eternity ; for the Deity 
being intimately prefent to our minds at all 
times, may difcover to us as much of his ideas 
as he fees proper, according to certain eftabliih- 
ed laws of nature : And in his ideas, as in a 
mirror, we perceive whatever we do perceive of 
the external world. 

Thus we have three fyftems, which maintain, 
that the ideas, which are the immediate obje&s 
of human knowledge, are eternal and immutable, 
and exifled before the things which they repre- 
fent. X nere are other fyftems, according to 
which, the ideas, which are the immediate ob- 
jects of all our thoughts, are pofterior to the 
things which they reprefent, and derived from 
them. We fhall give fome account of thefe ; 
but as they have gradually fprung out of the an- 
cient Peripatetic fyftem, it is neceffary to begin 
with fome account of it. 

Aristotle taught, that all the objects of our 
thought enter at firft by the fenfes ; and, lince 
the fenfe cannot receive external material ob- 
jects themfelves, it receives their fpecies ; that 
is, their images or forms, without the matter ; 
as wax receives the form of the feal, without 



any of the matter of it. Thefe images or forms, 
imprefled upon the fenfes, are called ferjible 
fpecies, and are the objects only of the fenfitive 
part of the mind : But, by various internal 
powers, they are retained, refined, and fpiri- 
tualized, fo as to become objects of memory and 
imagination, and, at laft, of pure intellection. 
When they are objects of memory and of ima- 
gination, they get the name of phuntafms. 
When, by farther refinement, and being ftrip- 
ped of their particularities, they become objects 
of fcience ; they are called intelligible fpecies : 
So that every immediate object, whether of 
fenfe, of memory, of imagination, or of reafon- 
ing, mult be fome phantafm or fpecies in the 
mind itfelf. 

The followers of Aristotle, efpecially the 
fchoolmen, made great additions to this theory, 
which the Author himfelf mentions very brief- 
ly, and with an appearance of referve. They 
entered into large difquiiitions with regard to 
the fenfible fpecies, what kind of things they 
are ; how they are fent forth by the object, and 
enter by the organs of the fenfes ; how they are 
preferved and refined by various agents, called 
internal fenfes ; concerning the number and of- 
fices of which they had many controveriies. But 
we mail not enter into a detail of thefe matters. 

The reafon of giving this brief account of the 
theory of the Peripatetics, with regard to the 


42- ESSAY I. [CHAP. I. 

immediate obje&s of our thoughts, is, becaufe 
the doclrine of modern Philofophers concerning 
ideas is built upon it. Mr Locke, who ufes 
this word fo very frequently, tells us, that he 
means the fame thing by it, as is commonly 
meant by /pedes or phantafm. Gassendi, from 
whom Locke borrowed more than from any 
other author, fays the fame. The words /pedes 
and phantu/m y are terms of art in the Peripatetic 
fyflem, and the meaning of them is to be learned 
from it. 

The theory of Democritus and Epicurus, 
on this fubject, was not very unlike to that of the 
Peripatetics. They held, that all bodies conti- 
nually fend forth llender films or fpeclres from 
their furface, of fuch extreme fubtilty, that they 
ealily penetrate our grofs bodies, or enter by the 
organs of fenfe, and flamp their image upon the 
mind. The fennble fpecies of Aristotle was 
mere forms without matter. The fpeclres of 
Epicurus were compofed of a very fubtile mat- 

Modern Philofophers, as well as the Peripate- 
tics and Epicureans of old, have conceived, that 
external objects cannot be the immediate objects 
of our thought ; that there mull be fome image 
of them in the mind itfelf, in which, as in a 
mirror, they are feen.. And the name idea, in 
the philofophical fenfe of it, is given to thofe 
internal and immediate objecls of our thoughts. 
i The 


The external thing is the remote or mediate 
object ; but the idea, or image of that objed: in 
the mind, is the immediate object, without which 
we could have no perception, no remembrance, 
no conception of the mediate object. 

When, therefore, in common language, we 
fpeak of having an idea of any thing, we mean 
no more by that expreffion, but thinking of it. 
The vulgar allow, that this expreffion implies a 
mind that thinks ; an act of that mind which we 
call thinking, and an object about which we 
think. But, befides thefe three, the Philofopher 
conceives that there is a fourth, to wit, the idea, 
which is the immediate object. The idea is in 
the mind itfelf, and can have no exifhence but 
in a mind that thinks ; but the remote or me- 
diate object may be fomething external, as the 
fun or moon ; it may be fomething pait or fu- 
ture ; it may be fomething which never exifted. 
This is the philofophical meaning of the word 
idea ; and we may obferve, that this meaning 
of that word is built upon a philofophical opi- 
nion : For, if Philofophers had not believed 
that there are fuch immediate objects of all our 
thoughts in the mind, they would never have 
ufed the word idea to exprefs them. 

I fhall only add on this article, that, although 
I may have occafion to ufe the word idea in 
this philofophical fenfe in explaining the opi-* 
nions of others, I fhall have no occalion to ufe 


44 ESSAY I. [chap. I. 

it in expreffing my own, becaufe I believe ideas, 
taken in this fenfe, to be a mere fiction of Phi- 
lofophers. And, in the popular meaning of the 
word, there is the lefs occafion to ufe it, becaufe 
the Englilh words, thought, notion, apprehenjion, 
anfwer the purpofe as well as the Greek word 
idea ; with this advantage, that they are lefs am- 
biguous. There is, indeed, a meaning of the 
word idea, which I think moll agreeable to its 
ufe in ancient philofophy, and which I would 
willingly adopt, if ufe, the arbiter of language, 
did permit. But this will come to be explained 

ii. The word imprejjion is ufed by Mr Hume, 
in fpeaking of the operations of the mind, al- 
moft as often as the word idea is by Mr Locke. 
What the latter calls ideas, the former divides 
into two claffes ; one of which he calls impref- 
fions, the other ideas. I mall make fome obfer- 
vations upon Mr Hume's explication of that 
word, and then conlider the proper meaning of 
it in the Englifh language. 

" We may divide, (fays Mr Hume, EfTays, 
" vol. 2. page 1 8.), all the perceptions of the 
" human mind into two claffes or fpecies, which 
" are diftinguifhed by their different degrees of 
" force and vivacity. The lefs lively and for- 
'* cible are commonly denominated thoughts or 
" ideas. The other fpecies want a name in our 
" language, and in moll others ; let us therefore 
i " ufe 


" ufe a little freedom, and call them impreffions. 
" By the term imprejjions, then, I mean all our 
" more lively perceptions, when we hear, or fee, 
" or feel, or love, or hate, or^defire, or will. 
" Ideas are the lefs lively perceptions, of which 
" we are confcious, when we reflect on any of 
" thofe fenfations or movements above mention- 
" ed." 

This is the explication Mr Hume hath given 
in his Eflays of the term impreffions, when ap- 
plied to the mind ; and his explication of it, 
in his Treatife of Human Nature, is to the fame 

Difputes about words belong rather to Gram- 
marians than to Philofophers ; but Philofophers 
ought not to efcape cenfure when they corrupt a 
language, by uling words in a way which the 
purity of the language will not admit. I find 
fault with Mr Hume's phrafeology in the words 
I have quoted, 

Fir/l, Becaufe he gives the name of percep- 
tions to every operation of the mind. Love is a 
perception, hatred a perception. Delire is a per- 
ception, will is a perception ; and, by the fame 
rule, a doubt, a queftion, a command, is a per- 
ception. This is an intolerable abufe of lan- 
guage, which no Philofapher has authority to 

Secondly, When Mr Hume fays, that we may 
divide all the perceptions of the human mind into 


46 ESS AY I. [CHAP. I. 

two claffes or /pedes, which are dijlinguijhed by 
their degrees of force and vivacity, the manner 
of expreflion is loofe and unphilofophical. To 
differ in fpecies is one thing ; to differ in degree 
is another. Things which differ in degree only 
muff be of the fame fpecies. It is a maxim of 
common fenfe, admitted by all men, that greater 
and lefs do not make a change of fpecies. The 
fame man may differ in the degree of his force and 
vivacity, in the morning and at night ; in health 
and in licknefs : But this is fo far from making 
him a different fpecies, that it does not fo much 
as make him a different individual. To fay, 
therefore, that two different claffes, or fpecies of 
perceptions, are diftinguiihed by the degrees of 
their force and vivacity, is to confound a differ- 
ence of degree with a difference of fpecies, which 
every man of underftanding knows how to di- 

Thirdly, We may obferve, that this Author, 
having given the general name of perception to 
all the operations of the mind, and diftinguiihed 
them into two claffes or fpecies, which differ 
only in degree of force and vivacity, tells us, 
that he gives the name of impreflions to all our 
more lively perceptions ; to wit, when we hear, 
or fee, or feel, or love, or hate, or defire, or will. 
There is great confufion in this account of the 
meaning of the word imprefjion. When I fee, 
this is an imprefjion. But why has not the Au- 


thor told us, whether he gives the name of im- 
prejjion to the object feen, or to that act of my 
mind by which I fee it ? When I fee the full 
moon, the full moon is one thing, my perceiving 
it is another thing. Which of thefe two things 
does he call an impreffion ? We are left to guefs 
this ; nor does all that this Author writes about 
impreffions clear this point. Every thing he 
fays tends to darken it, and to lead us to think, 
that the full moon which I fee, and my feeing 
it, are not two things, but one and the fame 

The fame obfervation may be applied to every 
other inftance the Author gives to illuftrate the 
meaning of the word impreffion. " When we 
" hear, when we feel, when we love, when we 
" hate, when we defire, when we will." In 
all thefe acts of the mind there muft be an ob- 
jett, which is heard, or felt, or loved, or hated, 
or delired, or willed. Thus, for inftance, I love 
my country. This, fays Mr Hume, is an im- 
prejjion. But what is the imprejjion P Is it my 
country,, or is it the affection I bear to it ? I 
afk the Philofopher this queftion ; but I find 
no anfwer to it. And when I read all that he 
has written on this fubject, I find this word im- 
prejjion fometimes ufed to fignify an operation 
of the mind, fometimes the object of the opera- 
tion ; but, for the moil part, it is a vague and 
indetermined word thst fignifies both. 


4-8 ESSAY I. . [CHAP, ft 

I know not whether it may be confidered as 
an apology for fuch abufe of words, in an Au- 
thor who underflood the language fo well, and 
ufed it with fo great propriety in writing on 
other fubje&s, that Mr Hume's fyftem, with re- 
gard to the mind, required a language of a dif- 
ferent ftructure from the common ; or, if ex- 
preffed in plain Englifh, would have been too 
fhocking to the common fenfe of mankind. To 
give an inftance or two of this. If a man re- 
ceives a prefent on which he puts a high value ; 
if he fee and handle it, and put it in his pocket, 
this, fays Mr Hume, is an imprejfton. If the 
man only dream that he received fuch a prefent, 
this is an idea. Wherein lies the difference be- 
tween this impreffion and this idea ; between 
the dream and the reality ? They are different 
claffes or fpecies fays Mr Hume : fo far all 
men will agree with him. But he adds, that 
they are diflinguifhed only by different degrees 
of force and vivacity. Here he infinuates a te- 
net of his own, in contradiction to the common 
fenfe of mankind. Common, fenfe convinces 
every man, that a lively dream is no nearer to a 
reality than a faint one ; and that if a man 
Ihould dream that he had all the wealth of Crce- 
fus, it would not put one farthing in his pocket. 
It is impoffible to fabricate arguments againfl 
fuch undeniable principles, without confounding 
the meaning of words. 



In like manner, if a man would perfuade me, 
that the moon which I fee, and my feeing it, are 
not two things, but one and the fame thing, he 
Will anfwer his purpofe lefs by arguing this point 
in plain Englifh, than by confounding the two 
under one name, fuch as that of an impreffion : 
For fuch is the power of words, that if we can 
be brought to the habit of calling two things 
that are connected, by the fame name, we are the 
more eafily led to believe them to be one and the 
fame thing. 

Let us next conlider the proper meaning of 
the word imprejjion in Englifh, that we may fee 
how far it is fit to exprefs either the operations 
of the mind, or their objects. 

When a figure is ftamped upon a body by 
prefTure, that figure is called an imprejjion, as the 
impreffion of a feal on wax, of printing-types, 
or of a copperplate, on paper. This feems now 
to be the literal fenfe of the word ; the effect 
borrowing its name from the caufe. But by 
metaphor or analogy, like mofh other words, its 
meaning is extended, fo as to fignify any change 
produced in a body by the operation of fome 
external caufe. A blow of the liand makes no 
impreffion on a ftone-wall ; but a battery of can- 
non may. The moon raifes a tide in the ocean, 
but makes no impreffion on rivers and lakes. 

When we fpeak of making an impreffion on 
the mind, the word is carried ftill farther from 

Vol. I. D its 


its literal meaning •, ufe, however, which is the 
arbiter of language, authorifes this application 
of it. As when we fay that admonition and re- 
proof make little impreffion on thole who are 
confirmed in bad habits. The fame difcourfe 
delivered in one way, makes a ftrong impreffion 
on the hearers ; delivered in another way, it 
makes no imprefiion at all. 

It may be obferved, that in fuch examples, an 
imprefiion made on the mind always implies 
fome change of purpofe or will ; feme new ha- 
bit produced, or fome former habit weakened ; 
fome paffion railed or allayed. When fuch chan- 
ges are produced by perfuaiion, example, or any 
external caufe, we fay that fuch caufes make an 
imprefiion upon the mind. But when things 
are feen or heard, or apprehended, without pro- 
ducing any paflion or emotion, we fay that they 
make no impreffion. 

In the molt extenfive fenfe, an imprefiion is a 
change produced in fome paffive fubject by the 
operation of an external caufe. If we fuppofe 
an active being to produce any change in itfelf 
by its own active power, this is never called an 
imprefiion. It is the act or operation of the 
being itfelf, not an imprefiion upon it. From 
this it appears, that to give the name of an im- 
preffion to any effect produced in the mind, is 
to fuppofe that the mind does not act at all in 
the production of that effect. If feeing, hear- 


ing, defiring, willing, be operations of the mind, 
they cannot be impreflions, If they be impref- 
lions, they cannot be operations of the mind. 
In the ftruchire of all languages, they are confi- 
dered as acts or operations of the mind itfelf, and 
the names given them imply this. To call them 
impreflions, therefore, is to trefpafs againil the 
ftrudture, not of a particular language only, but 
of all languages. 

If the word imprejjlon be an improper word 
to lignify the operations of the mind, it is at 
leaft as improper to lignify their objects ; for 
would any man be thought to fpeak with pro- 
priety, who mould fay that the fun is an impref- 
fion, that the earth and the fea arc impreflions ? 

It is commonly believed, and taken for grant- 
ed, that every language, if it be fufficiently co- 
pious in words, is equally fit to exprefs all opi- 
nions, whether they be true or falfe. I appre- 
hend, however, that there is an exception to 
this general rule, which deferves our notice. 
There are certain common opinions of mankind, 
upon which the ftructure and grammar of all 
languages are founded. While thefe opinions 
are common to all men, there will be a great 
fimilarity in all languages that are to be found 
on the face of the earth. Such a fimilarity there 
really is ; for we find in all languages the fame 
parts of fpeech, the diftin&ion of nouns and 
verbs, the .diftindtion of nouns into adjective and 

D 2 fubftantive, 

5? ESSAY I. [CHAP. I. 

fubftantive, of verbs into active and pafiive. In 
verbs we find like tenfes, moods, perfons and 
numbers. There are general rules of grammar, 
the fame in all languages. This fimilarity of 
ftructure in all languages mews an uniformity 
among men in thofe opinions upon which the 
ftructure of language is founded. 

If, for inflance, we mould fuppofe that there 
was a nation who believed that the things which 
we call attributes might exift without a fubject, 
there would be in their language no diftin&ion 
between adjectives and fubftantives, nor would 
it be a rule with them that an adjective has no 
meaning, unlefs when joined to a fubftantive. 
If there was any nation who did not diftinguifh 
between acting and being acted upon, there 
would in their language be no diftinction be- 
tween active and pafiive verbs, nor would it be 
a rule that the active verb muft have an .agent 
in the nominative cafe ; but that, in the paffive 
verb, the agent muft be in an oblique cafe. 

The ftructure of all languages is grounded 
Upon common notions, which Mr Hume's phi- 
loiophy oppofes, and endeavours to overturn. 
This no doubt led him to warp the common 
language into a conformity with his principles ; 
but we ought not to imitate him in this, until 
we are fatisfied that his principles are built on a 
jolid foundation. 

12. Sen- 


12. Senfation is a name given by Philofo- 
phers to an act of mind, which may be diilin- 
guifhed from all others by this, that it hath no 
object diflincl from the act itfelf. Pain of every 
kind is an uneafy fenfation. When I am pain- 
ed, I cannot fay, that the pain I feel is one thing, 
and that my feeling it, is another thing. They 
are one and the fame thing, and cannot be dif- 
joined, even in imagination. Pain, when it is 
not felt, has no exifience. It can be neither 
greater nor lefs in degree or duration, nor any 
thing elfe in kind, than it is felt to be. It can- 
not exift by itfelf, nor in any fubject, but in a 
fentient being. No quality of an inanimate in- 
fentient being can have the leaft refemblance to 

What we have faid of pain may be applied 
to every other fenfation. Some of them are 
agreeable, others uneafy, in various degrees. 
Thefe being objedts of deiire or averfion, have 
fome attention given to them ; but many are in- 
different, and fo little attended to, that they have 
no name in any language. 

Moll operations of the mind, that have names 
in common language, are complex in their na- 
ture, and made up of various ingredients, or 
more fimple ads ; which, though conjoined in 
our conftitution, muft be disjoined by abftrac- 
tion, in order to our having a diftinct and fcien- 
tific notion of the complex operation. In fuch 
D 3 operations, 

54 ESS AY I. [chap. I. 

op-rations, fenfation for the molt part makes an 
ingredient. Thofe who do not attend to the 
complex nature of fuch operations, are apt to 
refolve them into fome one of the fimple acts of 
which they are compounded, overlooking the 
others : And from this caufe many difputes have 
been raifed, and many errors have been occafion- 
ed with regard to the nature of fuch operations. 
The perception of external objects is accom- 
panied with fome fenfation correfponding to the 
object perceived, and fuch fenfations have, in 
many cafes, in all languages, the fame name 
with the external object which they always ac- 
company. The difficulty of disjoining by ab- 
ftraction, things thus conitantly conjoined in the 
courfe of nature, and things, which have one 
and the fame name in all languages, has likewife 
been frequently an occaiion of errors in the phi- 
lofophy of the mind. To avoid fuch errors, 
nothing is of more importance than to have a 
diftinct notion of that hmple act of the mind 
which we call fenfation, and which we have en- 
deavoured to defcribe. By this means we {hall 
find it more eafy to diftinguifh it from every ex- 
ternal object that it accompanies, and from 
every other act of the mind that may be con- 
joined with it. For this purpofe it is likewife 
of importance, that the name of fenfation fhould, 
in philofophical writings, be appropriated to 
lignify this iimple act of the mind, without in- 


eluding any thing more in its figniflcation, or 
being applied to other purpofes. 

I mail add an obfervation concerning the word 
feeling. This word has two meanings. Fitfl, 
It fignifies the perceptions we have of external 
objects, by the fenfe of touch. When we fpeak 
of feeling a body to be hard or foft, rough or 
fmooth, hot or cold ; to feel thefe things, is to 
perceive them by touch. They are external 
things, and that act of the mind by which we feel 
them, is eaiily diltinguifhed from the objects 
felt : Secondly, The word feeling is ufed to fig- 
nify the fame thing %s fenfation, which we have 
juil now explained ; and, in this fenfe, it has no 
object ; the feeling and the thing felt are one 
and the fame. 

Perhaps betwixt feeling, taken in this laft 
fenfe, and fenfation, there may be this fmall dif- 
ference, that fenfation is moil commonly ufed to 
iignify thofe feelings which we have by our ex- 
ternal fenfes and bodily appetites, and all our 
bodily pains and pleafures. But there are feel- 
ings of a nobler nature accompanying our affec- 
tions, our moral judgments, and our determina- 
tions in matters of tafte, to which the word fen- 
fation is lefs properly applied. 

I have premifed thefe obfervations on the 
meaning of certain words that frequently occur 
in treating of this fubject, for two reafens, firft, 
That I may be the better underftood when I 

D 4 ufe 

56 ESSAY I. [CHAP. I. 

ufe them ; and, fecondly, That thofe who would 
make any progrefs in this branch of fcience, 
may accuit m themfelves to attend very careful- 
ly to the meaning of words that are ufed in it. 
They may be allured of this, that the ambiguity 
of words, and the vague and improper applica- 
tion of them, have thrown more darknefs upon 
this fubjedl, than the fubtilty and intricacy of 

When we ufe common words, we ought to ufe 
them in the fenfe in which they are molt com~ 
monly ufed by the belt and pureft writers in 
the language ; and, when we have occafion to 
enlarge or reftrict the meaning of a common 
word, or to give it more precilion than it has in 
common language, the reader ought to haver 
warning of this, otherwife we fhall impofe upon 
ourfelves and upon him. 

A very refpectable writer has given us a good 
example of this kind, by explaining, in an Ap- 
pendix to his Elements of Criticifm, the terms he 
has occafion to ufe. In that Appendix, moll of 
the words are explained on which I have been 
making obfervations. And the explication I 
have given, I think, agrees, for the molt part, 
with his. 

Other words that need explication fhall be 
explained as they occur. 




Principles taken for granted. 

S there are words common to Philofophers 
and to the vulgar, which need no explica- 
tion ; fo there are principles common to both, 
which need no proof, and which do not admit 
of direct proof. 

One who applies to any branch of fcience 
mult be come to years of underftanding, and 
confequently mull have exercifed his reafon, and 
the other powers of his mind, in various ways. 
He mull have formed various opinions and prin- 
ciples, by which he conducts himfelf in the af- 
fairs of life. Of thofe principles, fome are com- 
mon to all men, being evident in themfelves, 
and fo neceffary in the conduct: of life, that a 
man cannot live and act according to the rules 
of common prudence without them. 

All men that have common underftanding 
agree in fuch principles, and coniider a man as 
lunatic, or destitute of common fenfe, who de- 
nies, or calls them in queftion. Thus, if any 
man were found of fo ftrange a turn as not to 
believe his own eyes ; to put no trull in his 
fenfes, nor have the leaft regard to their teftimo- 
ny ; would any man think it worth while to 
reafon gravely with fuch a perfon, and, by ar- 

$8 ESSAY I. [CHAP. 2. 

gument, to convince him of his error ? Surely 
no wife man would. For before men can rea- 
fon together, they muft agree in firft principles ; 
and it is impoffible to reafon with a man who 
has no principles in common with you. 

There are, therefore, common principles,, 
which are the foundation of all reafoning, and 
of all fcience. Such common principles feldom 
admit of direct proof, nor do they need it. Men 
need not to be taught them ; for they are fuch 
as all men of common underftanding know ; or 
fuch, at ieaft, as they give a ready affent to, as 
loon as they are propofed and underftood. 

Such principles, when we have occalion to ufe 
them in fcience, are called axioms. And, al- 
though it be not abfolutely neceffary, yet it may 
be of great ufe, to point out the principles or 
axioms on which a fcience is grounded. 

Thus, mathematicians, before they prove any 
of the proportions of mathematics, lay down 
certain axioms, or common principles, upon 
which they build their reafonings. And al- 
though thofe axioms be truths which every man 
knew before ; fuch as, That the whole is great- 
er than a part, That equal quantities added to 
equal quantities, make equal fums ; yet, when 
we fee nothing aifumed in the proof of mathe- 
matical proportions, but fuch felf-eyident 
axioms, the proportions appear more certain, 
and leave no room for doubt or difpute. 



In all other fciences, as well as in mathema- 
tics, it will be found, that there are a few com- 
mon principles, upon which all the reafonings 
in that fcience are grounded,, and into which 
they may be refolved. If thefe were pointed out 
and confidered, we mould be better able to 
judge what ftrefs may be laid upon the conclu- 
iions in that fcience. If the principles be cer- 
tain, the concluiions juftly drawn from them 
muft be certain. If the principles be only pro- 
bable, the concluiions can only be probable. If 
the principles be falfe, dubious, or obfcure, the 
fuperftrudture that is built upon them muft par- 
take of the weaknefs of the foundation. 

Sir Issac Newton, the greater! of Natural 
Philofophers, has given an example well worthy 
of imitation, by laying down the common prin- 
ciples or axioms, on which the reafonings in 
natural philofophy are built. Before this was 
done, the reafonings of Philofophers, in that 
fcience, were as vague and uncertain as they 
are in moil others. Nothing was fixed ; all 
was difpute and controverfy : But, by this hap- 
py expedient, a folid foundation is laid in that 
fcience, and a noble mperftriicture is raifed up- 
on it, about which there is now no more dif- 
pute or controverfy among men of knowledge, 
than there is about the concluiions of mathe- 


6d ESS AY I. [CHAP. 1. 

It may, however, be obferved, that the firft 
principles of natural philofophy are of a quite 
different nature from mathematical axioms : 
They have not the fame kind of evidence, nor 
are they neceffary truths, as mathematical axioms 
are : They are fuch as thefe : That fimilar ef- 
fects proceed from the fame or fimilar caufes : 
That we ought to admit of no other caufes of 
natural effects, but fuch as are true, and fuffi- 
cient to account for the effects. Thefe are prin- 
ciples, which, though they ha"ve not the fame 
kind of evidence that mathematical axioms 
have 5 yet have fuch evidence, that every man 
of common underitanding readily affents to 
them, and finds it abfolutely neceffary to con- 
duel: his actions and opinions by them, in the 
ordinary affairs of life. 

Though it has not been ufual, yet, I conceive 
it may be ufeful, to point out fome of thofe 
things which I ihall take for granted, as firft 
principles in treating of the mind and its facul- 
ties. There is the more occafion for this ; be- 
caufe very ingenious men, fuch as Des Cartes, 
Malebranche, Arnauld, Locke, and many 
others, have loft much labour, by not diltin- 
guifhing things which require proof, from things 
which, though they may admit of illuffration, 
yet being felf-evident, do not admit of proof. 
When men attempt to deduce fuch felf-evident 
principles from others more evident, they always 



fall into inconclulive reasoning : And the con- 
fequence of this has been, that others, fuch as 
Berkeley and Hume, finding the arguments 
brought to prove fuch firft principles to be weak 
and inconclulive, have been tempted firfl to 
doubt of them, and afterwards to deny them. 

It is fo irkfome to reafon with thofe who de- 
ny firft principles, that wife men commonly de- 
cline it. Yet it is not impoffible, that what is. 
only a vulgar prejudice may be miltaken for a 
firft principle. Nor is it impoffible, that what 
is really 'a firfl principle may, by the enchant- 
ment of words, have fuch a mill thrown about 
it, as to hide its evidence, and to make a man 
of candour doubt of it. Such cafes happen 
more frequently perhaps in this fcience than in 
any other ; but they are not altogether without 
remedy. There are ways by which the evi- 
dence of firft principles may be made more ap- 
parent when they are brought into difpute ; but 
they require to be handled in a way peculiar to 
themfelves. Their evidence is not demonftra- 
tive, but intuitive. They require not proof, 
but to be placed in a proper point of view. 
This will be fhown more fully in its proper 
place, and applied to thofe very principles which 
we now alfume. In the mean time, when they 
are propoied as firft principles, the reader is put 
on his guard, and warned to confider whether 
they have a juft claim to that character. 

j. Firfl \ 

6i ESSAY I. [CHAP. 2. 

1. Firjl, then, I fhall take it for granted, that 
I think, that I remember, that I reafon, and, in 
general, that I really perform all thofe opera- 
tions of mind of which I am confcious. 

The operations of our minds are attended with 
confcioufnefs j and this confcioufnefs is the evi- 
dence, the only evidence which we have or can 
have of their exiftence. If a man fhould take 
it into his head to think or to fay that his con- 
cioufnefs may deceive him, and to require proof 
that it cannot, I know of no proof that can 
be given him ; he muft be left to himfelf as a 
man that denies firft principles, without which 
there can be no reafoning. Every man finds 
himfelf under a neceility of believing what con- 
fcioufnefs teftifies, and every thing that hath 
this teftimony is to be taken as a firft prin- 

2. As by confcioufnefs we know certainly the 
exiftence of our prefent thoughts and paffions ; 
fo we know the paft by remembrance. And 
when they are recent, and the remembrance 
of them frefh, the knowledge of them, from 
fuch diftindt remembrance, is, in its certainty 
and evidence, next to that of confcioufnefs, 

3. But it is to be obferved, that we are con- 
fcious of many things to which we give little 
or no attention. We can hardly attend to fe- 
veral things at the fame time ; and our atten- 


lion is commonly employed about that which 
is the object of our thought, and rarely about 
the thought itfelf. Thus, when a man is an- 
gry, his attention is turned to the injury done 
him, or the injurious perfon ; and he gives very 
little attention to the paflion of anger, although 
he is confcious of it. It is in our power, how- 
ever, when we come to the years of underftand- 
ing, to give attention to our own thoughts and 
paflions, and the various operations of our 
minds. And when we make thefe the objects 
of our attention, either while they are prefent, 
or when they are recent and frefh in our me- 
mory, this act of the mind is called reflection. 

We take it for granted, therefore, that, by at- 
tentive reflection, a man may have a clear and 
certain knowledge of the operations of his own 
mind ; a knowledge no lefs clear and certain, 
than that which he has of an external object 
when it is fet before his eyes. 

This reflection is a kind of intuition ; it gives 
a like conviction with regard to internal objects, 
or things in the mind, as the faculty of fee- 
ing gives with regard to objects of light. A 
man muft, therefore, be convinced beyond pof- 
fibility of doubt, of every thing with regard 
to the operations of his own mind, which he 
clearly and diitinctly difcerns by attentive re- 

4. I 

64 IS SAY I. [CHAP. 2. 

4. I take it for granted, that all the thoughts 
I am confcious of, or remember, are the thoughts 
of one and the fame thinking principle, which 
I call myfelf or my mind. Every man has an 
immediate and irrefiftible- conviction, not only 
of his prefent exiflence, but of his continued 
exiftence and identity, as far back as he can re- 
member. If any man mould think fit to de- 
mand a proof that the thoughts he is fucceffive- 
ly confcious of belong to one and the fame 
thinking principle ; if he fhould demand a 
proof that he is the fame perfon to-day as he 
was yefterday, or a year ago, I know no proof 
that can be given him : He muft be left to him* 
felf, either as a man that is lunatic, or as one who 
denies firft principles, and is not to be reafoned 

Every man of a found mind finds himfelf un- 
der a neceffity of believing his own identity, 
and continued exiftence. The conviction of 
this is immediate and irrefiftible; and if he 
fhould lofe this conviction, it would be a certain 
proof of infanity, which is not to be remedied 
by reafoning. 

5. I take it for granted, that there are fome 
things which cannot exift by themfelves, but 
muft be in fomething elfe to which they belong, 
as qualities, or attributes. 

Thus, motion cannot exift but- in fomething 

that is moved. And to fuppofe that there can 

1 be 


be motion while every thing is at reft, is a grofs 
and palpable abfurdity. In like manner, hard- 
nefs and foftnefs, fweetnefs and bitternefs, are 
things which cannot exifl by themfelves; they 
are qualities of fomething which is hard or 
foft, fweet or bitter : That thing, whatever it 
be, of which they are qualities, is called their 
fubjeSby and fuch qualities neceffarily fuppofe a 

Things which may exifl by themfelves, and 
do not neceffarily fuppofe the exiflence of any 
thing elfe, are called fubjlances ; and with rela- 
tion to the qualities or attributes that belong 
to them, they are called the fubjeEls of fuch qua- 
lities or attributes. 

All the things which we immediately perceive 
by our fenfes, and all the things we are confci- 
ous of, are things which mult be in fomething 
elfe as their fubjecl:. Thus by my fenfes, I per- 
ceive figure, colour, hardnefs, foftnefs, motion, 
refiftance, and fuch like things. But thefe are 
qualities, and muft neceffarily be in fomething 
that is figured, coloured, hard or foft, that 
moves, or refills. It is not to thefe qualities, 
but to that which is the fubjecl: of them, that 
we give the name of body. If any man fhould 
think fit to deny that thefe things are qualities, 
or that they require any fubjecl:, I leave him to 
enjoy his opinion as a man who denies firfl prin- 
ciples, and is not fit to be reafoned with. If 
'Vol. I. E he 

66 ESSAY I, [CHAP. 2. 

he has common underftanding, he will find that 
he cannot converfe half an hour without faying 
things which imply the contrary of what he pro- 
feifes to believe. 

In like manner, the things I am confcious of, 
fuch as thought, reafoning, delire, necefiarily 
fuppofe fomething that thinks, that reafons, that 
defires. We do not give the name of mind to 
thought, reafon, or delire ; but to that being 
which thinks, which reafons, and which, de- 

That every act or operation, therefore, fuppo- 
fes an agent, that every quality fuppofes a fub- 
ject, are things which I do not attempt to prove, 
but take for granted. Every man of com- 
mon underftanding difcerns this immediately, 
and cannot entertain the leaft doubt of it. In 
all languages we find certain words which, by 
Grammarians, are called adjectives. Such 
words denote attributes, and every adjective 
muft have a fubftantive to which it belongs ; 
that is, every attribute muft have a fubjedt. In 
all languages we find active verbs, which de- 
note fome action or operation ; and it is a fun- 
damental rule in the grammar of all languages, 
that fuch a verb fuppofes a perfon ; that is, in 
other words, that every action muft have an a- 
gent. We take it, therefore, as a firft principle, 
that goodnefs, wifdom, and virtue, can only be 
in fome being that is good, wife^ and virtuous ; 



that thinking fuppofes a being that thinks ; and 
that every operation we are confcious of fup- 
pofes an agent that operates, which we call 

6. I take it for granted, that in moft opera- 
tions of the mind, there mull be an obje£l di- 
ftincT; from the operation itfelf. I cannot fee, 
without feeing fomething. To fee without ha- 
ving any object of light is abfurd. I cannot re- 
member, without remembering fomething. The 
thing remembered is part, while the remem-. 
brance of it is prefent; and therefore the ope- 
ration and the object of it mutt be diltinct 
things. The operations of our minds are de- 
noted, in all languages, by active tranlitive 
verbs, which, from their conliruction in gram- 
mar, require not only a perfon or agent, but 
likewife an object of the operation. Thus the 
verb know, denotes an operation of mind. From 
the general ftructure of language, this verb re- 
quires a perfon ; I know, you know, or he knows : 
But it requires no lefs a noun in the accufative 
cafe, denoting the thing known; for he that 
knows, mult know fomething; and to know, 
without having any objecl: of knowledge, is an 
abfurdity too grofs to admit of reafoning. 

7. We ought likewife to take for granted, as 
firlt principles, things wherein we find an unU 
verfal agreement, among the learned and un- 
learned, in the different nations and ages of the 

E 2 world, 

68 ESSAY X. [CHAP. 2< 

world. A confent of ages and nations, of the 
learned and vulgar, ought, at leaft, to hit, e great 
authority, unlefs we can fhow fome prejudice, 
as univerfal as that confent is, which might be 
the caufe of it. Truth is one, but error is in- 
finite. There are many truths fo obvious to the 
human faculties, that it may be expected that 
men mould univerfally agree in them. And 
this is actually found to be the cafe with regard 
to many truths, againlt which we find no dif- 
fent, unlefs perhaps that of a few fceptical Phi- 
lofophers, who may juftly be fufpected, in fuch 
cafes, to differ from the reft of mankind, through 
pride, obftinacy, or fome favourite paffion. 
Where there is fuch univerfal confent in things 
not deep nor intricate, but which lie, as it 
were, on the furface, there is the greateft pre- 
fumption, that can be, that it is the natural re- 
mit of the human faculties ; and it mufl have 
great authority with every fober mind that loves 
truth. Major enim pars eo fere deferri Jolet quo 
a natura deducitur. Cic. de Off. i. 41. 

Perhaps it may be thought, that it is impof*- 
fible to collect the opinions of all men upon any 
point whatfoever, and, therefore, that this max- 
im can be of no ufe. But there are many cafes 
wherein it is otherwife. Who can doubt, for 
inltance, whether mankind have, in all ages, be- 
lieved the exiftence of a material world, and 
that thofe things which they fee and handle are 



real, and not mere illufions and apparitions? 
Who can doubt, whether mankind have univer- 
fally believed, that every thing that begins to 
exift, and every change that happens in nature, 
muft have a caufe? Who can doubt, whether 
mankind have been univerfally peruiaded that 
there is a right and a wrong in human conduct? 
Some things which, in ceitain circumflances, 
they ought to do, and other things which they 
ought not to do ? The univerfality of thefe opi- 
nions, and of many fuch that might be named, 
is fufficiently evident, from the whole tenor of 
mens conduct, as far as our acquaintance reach- 
es, and from the records of hiftory, in all ages 
and nations, that are tranfmitted to us. 

There are other opinions that appear to be 
univerfal, from what is common in the ftructure 
of all languages, ancient and modern, polifhed 
and barbarous. Language is the exprefs image 
and picture of human thoughts; and from the 
picture, we may often draw very certain con- 
clulions with regard to the original. . We find 
in all languages the fame parts of fpeech, nouns 
fubftantive and adje&ive, verbs active and paf- 
live, varied according to the tenfes of paft, pre- 
fent, and future ; we find adverbs, prepofitions, 
and conjunctions. There are general rules of 
fyntax common to all languages. This unifor- 
mity in the ftructure of language, mows a cer- 
E 3 tain 

?0 ESS AT I. [CHAP. 2, 

tain degree of uniformity in thofe notions upon 
which the ftructure of language in grounded. 

We find, in the ftructure of all languages, 
the diftinction of acting and being acted upon, 
the diftinction of action and agent, of quality 
and fubject, and many others of the like kind ; 
which fhows, that thefe diftinctions are found- 
ed in the univerfal fenfe of mankind. We fhall 
have frequent occafion to argue from the fenfe 
of mankind expreffed in the ftructure of lan- 
guage ; and therefore it was proper here to take 
notice of the force of arguments drawn from 
this topic. 

8. I need hardly fay, that I fhall alfo take for 
granted fuch facts as are attefted to the convic- 
tion of all fober and reafonable men, either by 
our fenfe s, by memory, or by human teftimony. 
Although fome writers on this fubject have dis- 
puted the authority of the fenfes, of memory, 
and of every human faculty ; yet we find, that 
fuch perfons, in the conduct of life, in purfuing 
their ends, or in avoiding dangers, pay the fame 
regard to the authority of their fenfes, and other 
faculties, as the reft of mankind. By this they 
give us juft ground to doubt of their candour in 
their profeflions of fcepticifm. 

This, indeed, has always been the fate of the, 
few that have profefted fcepticifm, that, when 
they have done what they can to difcredit their 
fenfes, they find themfelves, after all, under a, 



neceffity of trufting to them. Mr Hume has 
been fo candid as to acknowledge this ; and it 
is no lefs true of thofe who have not fhown the 
fame candour : For I never heard that any fcep- 
tic run his head againft a poft, or ftept into a 
kennel, becaufe he did not believe his eyes. 

Upon the whole, I acknowledge that we ought 
to be cautious, that we do not adopt opinions as 
firft principles, which are not entitled to that 
character. But there is furely the leaft danger 
of mens being impofed upon in this way, when 
fuch principles openly lay claim to the charac- 
ter, and are thereby fairly expofed to the exa- 
mination of thofe who may difpute their autho- 
rity. We do not pretend, that thofe things that 
are laid down as firft principles may not be exa- 
mined, and that we ought not to have our ears 
open to what may be pleaded againft their being 
admitted as fuch. Let us deal with them, as an 
upright judge does with a witnefs who has a 
fair character. He pays a regard to the tefti- 
mony of fuch a witnefs, while his character is 
unimpeached. But if it can be fhown that he 
is fuborned, or that he is influenced by malice 
or partial favour, his teftimony lofes all its credit, 
and is juftly rejected. 

£4 CHAP. 

72 ESSAY I, [CHAP. 3. 


Of Hypothefes. 

EVERY branch of human knowledge hath 
its proper principles, its proper foundation 
and method of reafoning ; and, if we endeavour 
to build it upon any other foundation, it will 
never Hand firm and liable. Thus the hiftorian 
builds upon teftimony, and rarely indulges con- 
jecture. The antiquarian mixes conjecture with 
teftimony ; and the former often makes the 
larger ingredient. The mathematician pays not 
the leaft regard either to teftimony or conjec- 
ture, but deduces every thing, by demonftrative 
reafoning, from his definitions and axioms. In- 
deed, whatever is built upon conjecture, is im- 
properly called fcience ; for conjecture may be- 
get opinion, but cannot produce knowledge. 
Natural philofophy mull be built upon the phe- 
nomena of the material fyftem, difcovered by 
obfervation and experiment. 

When men firft began to philofophife, that is, 
to carry their thoughts beyond the objects of 
fenfe, and to enquire into the caufes of things, 
and the fecret operations of nature, it was very 
natural for them to indulge conjecture ; nor was 
it to be expected, that, in many ages, they ihould 
difcover the proper and fcientific way of pro- 


ceeding in philofophical difquifitions. Accord- 
ingly we find, that the moll ancient fyftems in 
every branch of philofophy were nothing but 
the conjectures of men famous for their wifdom, 
whofe fame gave authority to their opinions. 
Thus, in early ages, wife men conjectured, that 
this earth is a vail plain, furrounded on all hands 
by a boundlefs ocean. That from this ocean, 
the fun, moon, and [liars, emerge at their riling, 
and plunge into it again at their fetting. 

With regard to the mind, men in their rudeft 
Hate are apt to conjecture, that the principle of 
life in a man is his breath ; becaufe the moll ob- 
vious diftinction between a living and a dead man 
is, that the one breathes, and the other does not. 
To this it is owing, that, in ancient languages, 
the word which denotes the foul, is that which 
properly fignifies breath or air. 

As men advance in knowledge, their firfl con- 
jectures appear lilly and childifa, and give place 
to others, which tally better with later obferva- 
tions* and difcoveries. Thus, one fyltem of phi- 
lofophy fucceeds another, without any claim to 
fuperior merit, but this, that it is a more inge- 
nious fyltem of conjectures, and accounts better 
for common appearances. 

To omit many ancient fyllems of this kind, 
Des Cartes, about the middle of the laft cen- 
tury, diffatisfied with the materia prima, the 
fubjlantial forms, and the occult qualities of the 


74 essav i. [chap. 3^ 

Peripatetics, conjectured boldly, that the hea- 
venly bodies of our fyftem are carried round by 
a vortex or whirlpool of fubtile matter, juft as 
ftraws and chaff are carried round in a tub of 
water. He conjectured, that the foul is feated 
in a fmall gland in the brain, called the pineal 
gland : That there, as in her chamber of pre- 
fence, ihe receives intelligence of every thing 
that affects the fenfes, by means of a fubtile fluid 
contained in the nerves, called the animal fpirits ; 
and that fhe difpatches thefe animal fpirits, as 
her mefTengers, to put in motion the feveral 
mufcles of the body, as there is oecafion. By 
fuch conjectures as thefe, Des Cartes could 
account for every phenomenon in nature, in fuch 
a plaufible manner, as gave fatisfaction to a great 
part of the learned world for more than half a 

Such conjectures in philofophical matters have 
commonly got the name of hypothefes or theories* 
And the invention of a hypothefis, founded on 
fome flight probabilities, which accounts for 
many appearances of nature, has been eonfider- 
ed as the higheft attainment of a Philofopher. 
If the hypothefis hangs well together, is em- 
bellifhed by a lively imagination, and ferves to 
account for common appearances ; it is confi- 
dered by many as having all the qualities that 
mould recommend it to our belief; and all that 
ought to be required in a philofophical fyftem. 



There is fuch pronenefs in men of genius to 
invent hypothefes, and in others to acquiefce in 
them as the utmoft which the human faculties 
can attain in philofophy, that it is of the laft con- 
fequence to the progrefs of real knowledge, that 
men fhould have a clear and diftincl; underftand- 
ing of the nature of hypothefes in philofophy, 
and of the regard that is due to them. 

Although fome conjectures may have a confi- 
derable degree of probability, yet it is evidently 
in the nature of conjecture to be uncertain. In 
every cafe, the affent ought to be proportioned 
to the evidence ; for to believe firmly, what has 
but a fmall degree of probability, is a manifeft 
abufe of our underftanding. Now, though we 
may, in many cafes, form very probable conjec- 
tures concerning the works of men, every con- 
jecture we can form with regard to the works 
of God, has as little probability as the conjec- 
tures of a child with regard to the works of a 

The wifdom of God exceeds that of the wifefl 
man, more than that of the wifefl: man exceeds the 
wifdom of a child. If a child were to conjecture 
how an army is to be formed in the day of battle ; 
how a city is to be fortified, or a flate governed ; 
what chance has he to guefs right? As little 
chance has the wifeft man when he pretends to 
conjecture how the planets move in their courfes, 


76 ESS AY I. [CHAP. 3. 

how the fea ebbs and flows, and how our minds 
ad upon our bodies. 

If a thoufand of the greateft wits that ever the 
world produced, were, without any previous 
knowledge in anatomy, to lit down and contrive 
how, and by what internal organs, the various 
functions of the human body are carried on ; 
how the blood is made to circulate, and the 
limbs to move, they would not in a thoufand 
years hit upon any thing like the truth. 

Of all the difcoveries that have been made 
concerning the inward ftruclure of the human 
body, never one was made by conjecture. Ac- 
curate obfervations of Anatomifts have brought 
to light innumerable artifices of nature in the 
contrivance of this machine of the human bo- 
dy, which we cannot but admire as excellently 
adapted to their feveral purpofes. But the moll 
fagacious Phyfiologift never dreamed of them 
till they were difcovered. On the other hand, in- 
numerable conjectures, formed in different ages, 
with regard to the ftructure of the body, have 
been confuted by obfervation, and none ever 

What we have faid of the internal ftructure 
of the human body, may be faid, with juflice, 
of every other part of the works of God, where- 
in any real difcovery has been made. Such dis- 
coveries have always been made by patient ob- 
fervation, by accurate experiments, or by con- 



ciufions drawn by Uriel reafoning from obferva- 
tions and experiments ; and fuch difcoveries 
have always tended to refute, but not to con- 
firm, the theories and hypothefes which ingeni- 
ous men had invented. 

As this is a fact confirmed by the hiftory of 
philofophy in all pari: ages, it ought to have 
taught men, long ago, to treat with jult contempt 
hypothefes in every branch of philofophy, and 
to defpair of ever advancing real knowledge in 
that way. The Indian Philofopher, being at a 
lofs to know how the earth was fupported, in- 
vented the hypothefis of a huge elephant ; and 
this elephant he fuppofed to Hand upon the back 
of a huge tortoife. This hypothefis, however 
ridiculous it appears to us, might feem very rea- 
fonable to other Indians, who knew no more 
than the inventor of it ; and the fame will be 
the fate of all hypothefes invented by men to 
account for the works of God : They may have 
a decent and plaufible appearance to thofe who 
are not more knowing than the inventor ; but, 
when men come to be more enlightened, they 
W 7 ill always appear ridiculous and childilh. 

This has been the cafe with regard to hypo- 
thefes that have been revered by the moil en. 
lightened part of mankind for hundreds of years ; 
and it will always be the cafe to the end of the 
world. For, until the wifdom of men bear fome 
proportion to the wifdom of God, their attempts 

i to 

?8 ESSAY I* [CHAP. 3. 

to find out the ftrudture of his works by the 
force of their wit and genius, will be vain. 

The fineft productions of human art are im- 
rnenfely fhort of the meaneft works of nature. 
The niceft artift cannot make a feather, or the 
leaf of a tree. Human workmanfhip will never 
bear a comparifon with divine. Conjectures and 
hypothefes are the invention and the workman- 
fhip of men, and muft bear proportion to the 
capacity and fldil of the inventor ; and there- 
fore will always be very unlike to the works of 
God, which it is the bufinefs of philofophy to 

The world has been fo long befooled by hy- 
pothefes in all parts of philofophy, that it is of 
the utmoft confequence to every man, who would 
make any progrefs in real knowledge, to treat 
them with juft contempt as the reveries of vain 
and fanciful men, whofe pride makes them con- 
ceive themfelves able to unfold the myfteries of 
nature by the force of their genius. A learned 
man, in an epiftle to Des Cartes, has the fol- 
lowing obfervation, which very much deferved 
the attention of that Philofopher, and of all that 
come after him. " When men, fitting in their 
" clofet, and confulting only their books, at- 
" tempt difquifitions into riature, they may in- 
" deed tell how they would have made the 
" world, if God had given them that in com- 
" miffion j that is, they may defcribe chimeras, 
a " which 


" which correfpond with the imbecillity of their 
" own minds, no lefs than the admirable beauty 
" of the Univerfe correfponds with the infinite 
" perfection of its Creator ; but without an un- 
" derftanding truly divine, they can never form 
" fuch an idea to themfelves as the Deity had 
" in creating things." 

Let us, therefore, lay down this as a funda- 
mental principle in our enquiries into the {true-, 
ture of the mind, and its operations, that no re- 
gard is due to the conjectures or hypothefes of 
Philofophers, however ancient, however |gene- 
rally received. Let us accuftom ourfelves to try 
every opinion by the touchftone of fact and ex- 
perience. What can fairly be deduced from 
facts duly obferved, or fufficiently attefled, is 
genuine and pure ; it is the voice of God, and 
no fiction of human imagination. 

The firfl rule of philofophiiing laid down by 
the great Newton, is this : Caufas reram natu- 
raliurn, non plures admitti debet e, quam quae et ve- 
ra Jint, et earum phcenomenis explicandis fujjiciant* 
" No more caufes, nor any other caufes of na- 
" tural effects ought to be admitted, but fuch as 
" are both true, and are fufficient for explaining 
" their appearances." This is a golden rule ; 
it is the true and proper teft, by which what is 
found and folid in philofophy may be diilin- 
guifhed from what is hollow and vain. 


SO ESSAY t. [CHAP. 3. 

If a Philofopher, therefore, pretend to mow 
us the caufe of any natural effect, whether rela- 
ting to matter or to mind ; let us firit confider 
whether there be fufficient evidence that the 
caufe he affigns does really exift. If there be 
not, reject it with difdain as a fiction which 
ought to have no place in genuine philofophy. 
If the caufe affigned really exiit, coniider in the 
next place, whether the effect it is brought to 
explain neceiTarilv follow from it. Unlefs it 
have thefe two conditions, it is good for nothing. 

When Newton had lliown the admirable ef- 
fects of gravitation in our planetary fyftem, he 
muff have felt a ftrong defire to know its caufe. 
He could have invented a hypothecs for this 
purpoie, as many had done before him. But 
his philofophy was of another complexion. Let 
us hear what he fays ; Rationem harum gravita- 
iis proprietatum ex pbcenomenis non potui dedu- 
ce re, et bypotbefes non jingo. J^iricquid enim ex 
pbcvnomenis non deducitur, bypotbejls locanda eft. 
Et bypotbefes, feu metapbyficce, feu pbyficee, feu 
qualitatum occultarum, feu mecbanicce, in pbilofo- 
pbia experiment ali locum inn babent. 


<5f analogy, Si 


Of Analogy. 

IT is natural to men to judge of things lefs 
known, by fome fimilitude they obferye, or 
think they obfefve, between them and things 
more familiar or better known. In many cafetf, 
we have no better way of judging. And where 
the things compared have really a great fimili- 
tude in their nature, when there is reafon to 
think that they are fubjecl to the fame laws, 
there may be a confiderable degree of probabi- 
lity in concluiions drawn from analogy. 

Thus, we may obferve a very great fimilitude 
between this earth which we inhabit, and the 
other planets, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, and 
Mercury. They all revolve round the fun, as 
the earth does, although at different diftances, 
and in different periods. They borrow all their 
light from the fun, as the earth does. Several 
of them are known to revolve round their axis 
like the earth, and, by that means, muft have a 
like fucceflion of day and night. Some of them 
have moons, that ferve to give them light in the 
abfence of the fun, as our moon does to us. 
They are all, in their motions, fubjec~t to the 
fame law of gravitation, as the earth is. From 
all this fimilitude, it is not unreafonable to think, 

Vol. I. E that 

32 ESS AY I." [CHAP. 4. 

that thofe planets may, like our earth, be the 
habitation of various orders of living creatures. 
There is fome probability in this concluiion from 

In medicine, Phylicians muft, for the moft 
part, be directed in their prefcriptions by ana- 
logy. The constitution of one human body is 
fo like to that of another, that it is reafonable 
to think, that what is the caufe of health or 
ficknefs to one, may have the fame effect upon 
another. And this generally is found true, 
though not without fome exceptions. 

In politics, we reafon, for the moft part, from 
analogy. The conftitution of human nature is 
fo limilar in different focieties or common- 
wealths, that the caufes of peace and war, of 
'tranquillity and fedition, of riches and poverty, 
of improvement and degeneracy, are much the 
fame in all. 

Analogical reafoning, therefore, is not, in all 
cafes, to be rejected. It may afford a greater or 
a lefs degree of probability, according as the 
things compared are more or lefs fimilar in their 
nature. But it ought to be obferved, that, as 
this kind of reafoning can afford only probable 
evidence at beft ; fo unlefs great caution be ufed, 
we are apt to be led into error by it. For men 
are naturally difpofed to conceive a greater fi- 
miiitude in things than there really is. 



To give an inftance of this : Anatomifts, in, 
ancient ages, feldom dilTected human bodies 5 
but very often the bodies of thofe quadrupeds, 
whole internal ftrucrure was thought to approach 
neareft to that of the human body. Modern 
Anatomifcs have difcovered many miftakes the 
ancients were led into, by their conceiving a 
greater fimilitude between the ilructure of men 
and of fome beafts than there is in reality. By 
this, and many other inftances that might be 
given, it appears, that conclulions built on ana- 
logy (land on a llippery foundation j and that 
we ought never to reft upon evidence of this 
kind, when we can have more direct evidence. 

I know no Author who has made a more juft 
and a more happy ufe of this mode of reafoning„ 
than Biihop Butler, in his Analogy of Religion, 
Natural and Revealed, to the Conftitution and 
Courfe of Nature. In that excellent "Work, the 
Author does not ground any of the truths of 
religion upon analogy, as their proper evidence. 
He only makes ufe of analogy to anfwer objec- 
tions againft them. When objections are made 
againft the truths of religion, which may bfl 
made with equal flrength againft what we know 
to be true in the courfe of nature, fuch objec- 
tions can have no weight. 

Analogical reafoning, therefore, may "be of 

excellent ufe in anfwering objections againft 

truths which have other evidence. It may like- 

F 2 wife 

84 ESSAY I. [chap. 4. 

wife give a greater or a lefs degree of probabi- 
lity in cafes where we can find no other evi- 
dence. But all arguments, drawn from analogy, 
are Hill the weaker, the greater difparity there 
is between the things compared ; and therefore 
mull be weakeft of all when we compare body 
with mind, becaufe there are no two things in 
nature more unlike. 

There is no fubjecl in which men have always 
been fo prone to form their notions by analogies 
of this kind, as in what relates to the mind. 
We form an early acquaintance with material 
things by means of our fenfes, and are bred up 
in a conltant familiarity with them. Hence we 
are apt to meafure all things by them ; and to 
afcribe to things moft remote from matter, the 
qualities that belong to material things. It is 
for this reafon, that mankind have, in all ages, 
been fo prone to conceive the mind itfelf to be 
fome fubtile kind of matter : That they have 
been difpofed to afcribe human figure, and hu- 
man organs, not only to angels, but even to the 
Deity. Though we are confcious of the opera- 
tions of our own minds when they are exerted, 
and are capable of attending to them, fo as to 
form a diftincT: notion of them ; this is fo diffi- 
cult a work to men, whofe attention is conftant- 
ly folicited by external objects, that we give 
them names from things that are familiar, and 
which are conceived to have fome fimilitude to 

• them ; 


them 3 and the notions we form of them are no 
lefs analogical than the names we give them. 
Almoft all the words, by which we exprefs the 
operations of the mind, are borrowed from ma- 
terial objects. To under/land, to conceive, to ima- 
gine, to comprehend, to deliberate, to infer, and 
many others, are words of this kind ; fo that 
the very language of mankind, with regard to 
the operations of our minds, is analogical. Be- 
caufe bodies are affected only by contact and 
preiTure, we are apt to conceive, that what is an 
immediate object of thought, and affects the 
mind, muft be in contact with it, and make fome 
impreffion upon it. When we imagine any thing, 
the very word leads us to think, that there muft 
be fome image in the mind, of the thing con- 
ceived. It is evident, that thefe notions are 
drawn from fome fimilitude conceived between 
body and mind, and between the properties of 
body and the operations of mind. 

To iljuftrate more fully that analogical rea- 
foning from a fuppofed fimilitude of mind to 
body, which I conceive to be the moll fruitful 
fource of error with regard to the operations of 
our minds, I mall give an inftance of it. 

When a man is urged by contrary motives, 
thofe on one hand inciting him to do fome 
action, thofe on the other to forbear it ; he de- 
liberates about it, and at laft refolves to do it, or 
not to do it. The contrary motives are here 
F 3 compared 

86 essay i. [chap. 4. 

compared to the weights in the oppolite fcales of 
a balance ; and there is not perhaps any inftance 
that can be named of a more flriking analogy 
between body and mind. Hence the phrafes of 
weighing motives, of deliberating upon actions, 
are common to all languages. 

From this analogy, fome Philofophers draw 
very important conclufions. They fay, that, as 
the balance cannot incline to one fide more than 
the other, when the oppolite weights are equal ; 
fo a man cannot poffibly determine himfelf, if 
the motives on both hands are equal : and, as 
the balance muft neceffarily turn to that lide 
which has moil weight ; fo the man muft necef- 
farily be determined to that hand where the 
motive is ftrongeft. And on this foundation, 
fome of the fchoolmen maintained, that, if a 
hungry afs were placed between two bundles of 
hay equally inviting, the beail mult Hand ilill 
and ftarve to death, being unable to turn to ei- 
ther, becaufe there are equal motives to both. 
This is an inftance of that analogical reafoning, 
which I conceive ought never to be trufted : 
For, the analogy between a balance and a man 
deliberating, though one of the ftrongeft that 
can be found between matter and mind, is too 
weak to fupport any argument. A piece of dead 
inactive matter, and an active intelligent being, 
are things very unlike ; and becaufe the one 
would remain at reft in a certain cafe, it does 




mot follow that the other would be inactive in a 
cafe fomewhat iimilar. The argument is no 
better than this, that, becaufe a dead animal 
moves only as it is pufhed, and, if pufhed with 
equal force in contrary directions, muft remain 
at reft ; therefore the fame thing* muft happen 
to a living animal ; for furely the limilitude be- 
tween a dead animal and a living, is as great as 
that between a balance and a man. 

The conclufion I would draw 'from all that 
has been faid on analogy, is, that, in, our enqui- 
ries concerning the mind, and its operations, we 
ought never to truft to reafonings, drawn from 
fome fuppofed limilitude of body to mind ; and 
that we ought to be very much upon our guard, 
that we be not impofed upon by thofe analogical 
terms and phrafes, by which the operations of 
the mind are expreffed in all languages. 


Of the proper Means of knowing the Operations 
of the Mind. 

INCE we ought to pay no regard to hypo- 
thefes, and to be very fufpicious of analo- 
gical reafoning, it may be afked, from what 
iburce muft the knowledge of the mind, and its 
faculties, be drawn ? 

•F4 I 

88 essay i. [chap. 5. 

I anfwer, the chief and proper fource of this 
branch of knowledge is accurate refle&ion upon, 
the operations of our own minds. Of this fource 
we ihall fpeak more fully, after making fome 
remarks upon two others that may be fubfervient 
to it. The firft of them is, attention to the 
ftruclure of language. 

The language of mankind is expreffive of 
their thoughts, and of the various operations of 
their minds. The various operations of the un- 
derstanding, will, and paffions, which are com- 
mon to mankind, have various forms of fpeech 
correfponding to them in all languages, which 
are the ligns of them, and by which they are ex- 
prefled : And a due attention to the ligns may, 
in many cafes, give confiderable light to the 
things iignified by them. 

There are in all languages modes of fpeech, 
by which men fignify their judgment, or give 
their teftimony ; by which they accept or re- 
fufe ; by which they aik information or advice ; 
by which they command, or threaten, or fuppli- 
cate ; by which they plight their faith in pro- 
mifes and contracts. If fuch operations were 
not common to mankind, we mould not find in 
all languages forms of fpeech, by which they 
are expreffed. 

All languages, indeed, have their imperfec- 
tions ; they can never be adequate to all the va- 
rieties of human thought ; and therefore things, 


OF th£ operations of the mind. 89 

may be really diftind in their nature, and ca- 
pable of being diftinguifhed by the human 
mind, which are not diftinguifhed in common 
language. We can only expect, in the ftructure 
of languages, thofe distinctions which all man- 
kind in the common bufinefs of life have occa- 
iion to make. 

There may be peculiarities in a particular 
language, of the caufes of which we are igno- 
rant, and from which, therefore, we can draw 
no conclufion. But whatever we find common 
to all languages, muft have a common caufe; 
mult be owing to fome common notion or fen- 
timent of the human mind. 

We gave fome examples of this before, and 
ihall here add another. All languages have a 
plural number in many of their nouns; from 
which we may infer, that all men have notions, 
not of individual things only, but of attributes, 
or things which are common to many indivi- 
duals ; for no individual can have a plural num- 

Another fource of information in this fubject, 
is a due attention to the courfe of human ac- 
tions and conduct. The actions of men are ef- 
fects : Their fentiments, their pailions, and their 
affections, are the caufes of thofe effects; and 
we may, in many cafes, form a judgment of the 
eaufe from the effect. 


9® ESSAY I. [CHAP. 5, 

The behaviour of parents towards their chil- 
dren gives fufficient evidence, even to thofe 
who never had children, that the parentaj. af- 
fection is common to mankind. It is eafy to 
fee, from the general conduct of men, what are 
the natural objects of their efteem, their admi- 
ration, their love, their approbation, their re- 
fentment, and of all their other original difpo- 
iitions. It is obvious, from the conduct of men 
in all ages, that man is by his nature a focial a- 
nimal ; that he delights to aifociate.with his fpe- 
cies ; to converfe, and to exchange good offices 
with them. 

Not only the actions, but even the opinions of 
men may fometimes gives light into the frame 
of the human mind. The opinions of men may 
be confidered as the effects of their intellectual 
powers, as their actions are the effects of their 
active principles. Even the prejudices and er- 
rors of mankind, when they are general, muft 
have fonie caufe no lefs general ; the difcovery 
of which will throw fome light upon the frame 
of the human underftanding. 

I conceive this to be the principal ufe of the 
hiitory of philofophy. When we trace the hi- 
ftory of the various philofophical opinions that 
have lprung up among thinking men, we are led 
into a labyrinth of fanciful opinions, contradic- 
tions, and abiumities, intermixed with fome 
truths; yet we may fometimes find a clue to 

2 lead 


lead us through the feveral windings of this la- 
byrinth : We may find that point of view which 
prefented things to the author of the fyftem, in 
the light in which they appeared to him. This 
will often give a conliftency to things feeming- 
ly contradictory, and fome degree of probabili- 
ty to thofe that appeared moll fanciful. 

The hillory of philofophy, considered as a 
map of the intellectual operations of men of ge- 
nius, muft always be entertaining, and may 
fometimes give us views of the human under- 
flanding, which could not eafily be had any o- 
ther way. 

I return to what I mentioned as the main 
fource of information on this fubject ; atten- 
tive reflection upon the operations of our own 

All the notions we have of mind, and of its 
operations, are, by Mr Locke, called ideas of 
reflection. A man may have as diftinct notions 
of remembrance, of judgment, of will, of de- 
lire, as he has of any object: whatever. Such 
notions, as Mr Locke juftly obferves, are got 
by the power of reflection. But what is this 
power of reflection ? It is, fays the fame author, 
" that power by which the mind turns its view 
" inward, and obferves its own actions and ope- 
" rations." He obferves elfewhere, " That the 
" underftariding, like the eye, whilrt it makes 
" us fee and perceive all other things, takes no 

" notice 

92 ESSAY I. [CHAP. 5, 

" notice of itfelf; and that it requires, art and 
" pains to fet it at a diflance, and make it its 
" own object." Cicero hath exprefied this 
fentiment moll beautifully, Tufc. I. 28. 

This power of the underftanding to make its 
own operations its object, to attend to them, and 
examine them on all fides, is the power of re, 
flection, by which alone we can have any di- 
ftinct notion of the powers of our own, or of 
other minds. 

This reflection ought to be diftinguifhed from 
confcioufnefs, with which it is too often con- 
founded, even by Mr Locke. All men are 
confcious of the operations of their own minds, 
at all times, while they are awake ; but there 
are few who reflect upon them, or make them ob- 
jects of thought. 

From infancy, till we come to the years of 
underftanding, we are employed folely about 
external objects. And, although the mind is 
confcious of its operations, it does not attend to 
them ; its attention is turned folely to the exterr 
nal objects, about which thofe operations are 
employed. Thus, when a man is angry, he is 
confcious of his paffion; but his attention is 
turned to the perfon who offended him, and the 
cireumftances of the offence, while the paffion 
of anger is not in the leaft the object of his at- 
tention. , 



I conceive, this is fufficient to'fhew the diffe- 
rence between confcioufnefs of the operations 
of our minds, and reflection upon them ; and to 
ihew that we may have the former without anv 
degree of the latter. The difference between 
confcioufnefs and reflection, is like to the diffe- 
rence between a fuperficial view of an objed: 
which prefents itfelf to the eye, while we are 
engaged about fomething elfe, and that attentive 
examination which we give to an objecl when 
we are wholly employed in furveying it. At- 
tention is a voluntary act ; it requires an active 
exertion to begin and to continue it ; and it may 
be continued as long as we will ; but confci- 
oufnefs is involuntary and of no continuance, 
changing with every thought. 

The power of reflection upon the operations 
of their own minds does not appear at all in 
children. Men muft be come to fome ripenefs 
of underflanding before they are capable of it. 
Of all the powers of the human mind, it feems 
to be the laft that unfolds itfelf. Moil men 
feem incapable of acquiring it in any confider- 
able degree. Like all our other powers, it is 
greatly improved by exercife ; and until a man 
has got the habit of attending to the operations 
of his own mind, he can never have clear and 
diftincT. notions of them, nor form any Heady 
judgment concerning them. His opinions mult 
be borrowed from others, his notions confirfed 
and indiftinct, and he may eafily be led to Aval- 

94 ESSAY I. [CHAI*. 5, 

low very grofs abfurdities. To acquire this ha- 
bit, is a work of time and labour, even in thofe 
who begin it early, and whofe natural talents 
are tolerably fitted for it ; but the difficulty will 
be daily diminifhing, and the advantage of it is 
great. They will thereby be enabled to think 
with precision and accuracy on every fubjecl:, 
efpecially on thofe fubjects that are more ab- 
ftracT:. They will be able to- judge for them- 
felves in many important points, wherein others 
mull blindly follow a leader. 

C H A P. VI. 

Of the Difficulty of attending to the Operations of 
our own Minds. 

THE difficulty of attending to our mental 
operations ought to be well underftood ? 
and juftly efiimated, by thofe who would make 
any progrefs in this fcience ; that they may nei- 
ther, on the one hand, expec~l fuccefs without 
pains and application of thought ; nor, on the 
other, be difcouraged, by conceiving that the 
obftacles that lie in the way are infuperable, 
and that there is no certainty to be attained in 
it. I mall, therefore, endeavour to point out 
the caufes of this difficulty, and the effe&s that 
have arifen from it, that we may be able to form 
a true judgment of both. 



1. The number and quick fucceffion of the 
operations of the mind make it difficult to give 
due attention to them. It is well known, that 
if a great number of objects be prefented in 
quick fucceffion, even to the eye, they are con- 
founded in the memory and imagination. We 
retain a confufed notion of the whole, and a 
more confufed one of the feveral parts, eipecial- 
ly if they are objects to which we have never 
before given particular attention. No fucceffion 
can. be more quick than that of thought. The 
mind is bufy while we are awake, continually 
paffing from one thought, and one operation, to 
another. The fcene is conftantly miiting. E~ 
very man will be fenfible of this, who tries but 
for one minute to keep the fame thought in his 
imagination, without addition or variation. He 
■will find it importable to keep the fcene of his 
imagination fixed. Other obje&s will intrude 
without being called, and all he can do is to 
reject, thefe intruders as quickly as poffible, and 
return to his principal object. 

2. In this exercife, we go contrary to habits 
which have been early acquired, and confirmed 
by long unvaried practice. From infancy, we 
are accuftomed to attend to objects of fenfe, and 
to them only; and, when fenfible objects have 
got filch ftrong hold of the attention by confirm 
ed habit, it is not eafy to difpoffefs them. When 
we grow up, a variety of external objects folicits 


$6 ESSAY t. [CHA^. 6j 

our attention, excites our curiofity, engages our 
affections, or touches our paffions ; and the con- 
ftant round of employment, about external ob- 
jects, draws off the mind from attending to it- 
felf; fo that nothing is more juft than the ob- 
fervation of Mr Locke before mentioned,, 
" That the underftanding, like the eye, while 
" it furveys all the objects around it, commonly 
" takes no notice of itfelf." 

3. The operations of the mind, from their 
very nature, lead the mind to give its attention 
to fome other object. Our fenfations, as will be* 
fhown afterwards, are natural ffgns, and turn 
our attention to the things iignified by them ; 
fo much, that moft of them, and thofe the moil 
frequent and familiar, have no name in any lan- 
guage. In perception, memory, judgment, ima- 
gination, and reafoning, there is an object di* 
ftinct from the operation itfelf; and, while we 
are led by a ftrong impulfe, to attend to the ob- 
ject, the operation efcapes our notice. Our paf- 
fions, affections, and all our active powers, have, 
in like manner, their objects which engrofs our 
attention, and divert it from the paffion itfelf. 

4. To this we may add a juft obfervation 
made by Mr Hume, That, when the mind is 
agitated by any paffion, as foon as we turn our 
attention from the object to the paffion itfelf, the 
paffion fubfides or vanifhes, and by that means 
efcapes our enquiry. This, indeed, is common 



to almoft every operation of the mind : When 
it is exerted, we are confcious of it ; but then 
we do not attend to the operation, but to its ob- 
ject. When the mind is drawn off from the ob- 
ject, to attend to its own operation, that opera- 
tion eeafes, and efcapes our notice. 

5. As it is not fufficient to the difcovery of 
mathematical truths, that a man be able to at- 
tend to mathematical figures ; as it is neceffary 
that he mould have the ability to diflinguifh ac- 
curately things that differ, and to difcern clear- 
ly the various relations of the quantities he com- 
pares ; an ability which, though much greater 
in thofe who have the force of genius than in 
others, yet even in them requires exercife and 
habit to bring it to maturity : So, in order to 
difcover the truth in what relates to the opera- 
tions of the mind, it is not enough that a man 
be able to give attention to them ; he muft have 
the ability to diflinguifh accurately their minute 
differences ; to refolve and analyfe complex 
operations into their fimple ingredients ; to un- 
fold the ambiguity of words, which in this fci- 
ence is greater than in any other, and to give 
them the fame accuracy and precifion that ma- 
thematical terms have. For, indeed, the fame 
precilion in the ufe of words ; the fame cool at- 
tention to the minute differences of things ; the 
fame talent for abfi.ract.ion and analyfing, which 
fits a man for the ftudy of mathematics, is no 

Vol. I. G lefs 

p3 E S S A Y I. [chap. 6. 

lefs neceffary in this. 'But there is this great 
difference between the two fciehces, that the 
objects of mathematics being things external to 
the mind, it is much more eafy to attend to 
them, and fix them fteadily in the imagination. 

The difficulty* attending our enquiries into the 
powers of the mind, ferves to account for fome 
events refpedting this branch of philofophy, 
.which deferve to be mentioned. 

While moll branches of fcience have, either in 
ancient or in modern times, been highly culti- 
vated, and brought to a confiderable degree of 
perfection, this remains, to this day, in a very 
low ftate, and as it were in its infancy. 

Every fcience invented by men muft have its 
beginning and its progrefs ; and, from various 
caufes, it may happen, that one fcience mall be 
brought to a great degree of maturity, while, 
another is yet in its infancy. The maturity of 
a fcience may be judged of by this : When it 
contains a fyitem of principles, and conclufions 
drawn from them, which are fo firmly eftablim- 
ed, that, among thinking and intelligent men, 
there remains no doubt or difpute about them \ 
fo that thofe who come after may raife the fu- 
perltructure higher, but fhall never be able to 
overturn what is already built, in order to begin 
on, a new foundation. 

Geometry feems to have been in its infancy 
about the time of T hales and Pythagoras ; 



becaufe many of the elementary prcpoiitions, on 
which the whole fcience is built, are afcribed to 
them as the inventors. Euclid's Elements, 
which were written fome ages after Pythago- 
ras, exhibit a fyftem of geometry which de- 
ferves the name of a fcience ; and though great 
additions have been made by Appollonius, 
Archimedes, Pappus, and others among the 
ancients, and (till greater by the moderns ; yet 
what was laid down in Euclid's Elements was 
never fet afide. It remains as the firm founda- 
tion of all future fuperftructures in that fcience. 

Natural philofophy remained in its infant ft ate 
near two thoufand years after geometry had at- 
tained to its manly form : For natural philofophy 
feems not to have been built on a liable founda- 
tion, nor carried to any degree of maturity, till 
the laft century. The fyftem of Des Cartes, 
which was all hypothefis, prevailed in the molt 
enlightened part of Europe till towards the end 
of laft century. Sir Isaac Newton has the 
merit of giving the form of a fcience to this 
branch of philofophy ; and it need not appear 
furprifmg, if the philofophy of the human mind 
mould be a century or two later in being brought 
to maturity. 

It has received great acceffions from the la- 
bours of feveral modern authors ; and perhaps 
wants little more to entitle it to the name of a 
fcience, but to be purged of certain hypothefes, 
G 2 whi<;h 

100 ESSAY r. I CHAP. 6. 

which have impofed on fome of the moil acute 
writers on this fubjecl, and led them into down- 
right fcepticifm. 

What the ancients have delivered to us con- 
cerning the mind, and its operations, is almoil 
entirely drawn, not from accurate reflection, but 
from fome conceived analogy between body and 
mind. And although the modern authors I for- 
merly named have given more attention to the 
operations of their own minds, and by that 
means have made important difcoveries ; yet, 
by retaining fome of the ancient analogical no- 
tions, their difcoveries have been lefs ufeful than 
they might have been, and have led to fcepti- 

It may happen in fcience, as in building, that 
an error in the foundation mall weaken the 
whole ; and the farther the building is carried 
on, this weaknefs fhall become the more appa- 
rent and the more threatening. Something of 
this kind feems to have happened in our fyftems 
concerning the mind. The acceflion they have 
received by modern difcoveries, though very im- 
portant in itfelf, has thrown darknefs and obr 
fcurity upon the whole, and has led men rather 
to fcepticifm than to knowledge. This mull be 
owing to fome fundamental errors that have not 
been obferved ; and when thefe are corrected, it 
is to be hoped, that the improvements that have 

been made will have their due effect. 



The-laft effecT: I obferve of the difficulty pf 
enquiries into the powers of the mind, is, that 
there is no other part of human knowledge, in 
which ingenious authors have been fo apt to run 
Into flrange paradoxes, and even into grofs ab- 

When we find Philofophers maintaining, that 
there is no heat in the fire, nor colour in the 
rainbow : When we find the graveil Philofo- 
phers, from Des Cartes down to Bifhop Berke- 
ley, muftering up arguments to prove the ex- 
igence of a material world, and unable to find 
any that will bear examination : When we find 
Bifhop Berkeley and Mr Hume, the acuteft 
Metaphyiicians of the age, maintaining, that 
there is no fuch thing as matter in the univerfe : 
That fun, moon, and itars, the earth which we 
inhabit, our own bodies, and thofe of our friends, 
are only ideas in our minds, and have no exifl> 
ence but in thought : When we find the laft 
maintaining, that there is neither body nor mind ; 
nothing in nature but ideas and iinprefTions, 
without any fubftance on which they are irn- 
preffed : That there is no certainty, nor indeed 
probability, even in mathematical axioms : I fay, 
when we confider fuch extravagancies of many 
of the moft acute writers on this fubject, we may 
be apt to think the whole to be only a dream of 
fanciful men, who have entangled themfeives in 
cobwebs fpun out of their own brain. But we 
G 3 ought 

102 ESS At r» [chap. 6. 

ought to confider, that the more clofely and in- 
genioufly men reafon from falfe principles, the 
more abfurdities they will be led into ; and when 
fuch abfurdities help to bring to light the falfe 
principles from which they are drawn, they may 
be the more eafily forgiven. 


Divijion of the Powers of the Mind. 

THE powers of the mind are fo many; fo 
various, and fo connected and complicated 
in moll of its operations, that there never has 
been any divifion of them propofed which is 
not liable to confiderable objections. We lhall 
therefore take that general divifion which is the 
moll common, into the powers of underjlanding 
jand thofe of will. Under the will we compre- 
hend our active powers, and all that lead to ac- 
tion, or influence the mind to act ; fuch as, ap- 
petites, paffions, affections. The underflanding 
comprehends our contemplative powers ; by 
which we perceive objects ; by which we con- 
ceive or remember them ; by which we analyfe 
or compound them ; and by which we judge 
and reafon concerning them. 

Although this general divifion may be of ufe 
in order to our proceeding more methodically 



in our fubject, we are not to underftand it as if, 
in thofe operations which are afcribed to the un- 
derftanding, there were no exertion of will or 
activity, or as if the underftanding were not em- 
ployed 4n the operations afcribed to the will ; 
for I conceive there is no operation of the un- 
derftanding wherein the mind is not active in 
fome degree. We have fome command over 
our thoughts, and can attend to this or to that, 
of many objects which prefent themfelves to 
our fenfes, to our memory, or to our imagina- 
tion. We can furvey an object on this lide or 
that, fuperficially or accurately, for a longer or 
a fhorter time ; lb that our contemplative powers 
are under the guidance and direction of the ac- 
tive ; and the former never purfue their object, 
without being led and directed, urged or re- 
ftrained by the latter : And becaufe the under- 
ftanding is always more or lefs directed by the 
will, mankind have afcribed fome degree of ac- 
tivity to the mind in its intellectual operations, 
as well as in thofe which belong to the will, and 
have exprefted them by active verbs, fuch as fee- 
ing, hearing, judging, reafoning, and the like. 

And as the mind exerts fome degree of acti- 
vity even in the operations of underftanding, fo 
it is certain, that there can be no act of will 
which is not accompanied with fome act of un- 
derftanding. The will itiuft have an object, and 
that object muft be apprehended or conceived in 

G 4 the 

104 ESSAY I. [CHAP. 7. 

the underftanding. It is therefore to be remem- 
bered, that in moil, if not all operations of the 
mind, both faculties concur ; and we range the 
operation under that faculty which hath the lar- 
ger! ihare in it. 

The intellectual powers are commonly divi- 
ded into fimple apprehenhon, judgment, and rea- 
foning. As this di virion has in its favour the 
authority of antiquity, and of a very general re- 
ception, it would be improper to fet it aiide 
without giving any reafon ; I mall therefore ex- 
plain it briefly, and give the reafons why I chufe 
to follow another. 

It may be obferved, that, without apprehen- 
fion of the objects, concerning which we judge, 
there can be no judgment ; as little can there be 
reafoning without both apprehenhon and judg- 
ment : Thefe three operations, therefore, are 
not independent of each other. The fecond in- 
cludes the firft, and the third includes both the 
firft and fecond : But the firft may be exercifed 
without either of the other two. It is on that 
account called Jimple apprehenjion ; that is, ap- 
prehenhon unaccompanied with any judgment 
about the object apprehended. This fimple ap- 
prehenfion of an object is, in common language, 
called having a notion, or having a conception of 
the object, and by late authors is called having 
an idea of it. In fpeaking, it is exprefled by a 
word, or by a part of a propofition, without that 



composition and ftru6ture which makes a conf- 
plete fentence ; as a man, a man of fortune. 
Such words, taken by themfelves, iignify fimple 
appreheniions. They neither affirm nor deny ; 
they imply no judgment or opinion of the thing 
fignified by them, and therefore cannot be faid 
to be either true or falfe. 

The fecond operation in this divifion is judg- 
ment ; in which, fay the Philofophcrs, there 
mult be two objects of thought compared, and 
fome agreement or difagreement, or, in general, 
fome relation difcerned between them ; in con- 
ference of which, there is an opinion or belief 
of that relation which we difcern. This ope- 
ration is expreffed in fpeech by a proposition, 
in which fome relation between the things com- 
pared is affirmed or denied : As when we fay. 
All men are fallible. 

Truth and falfehood are qualities which be- 
long to judgment only ; or to propositions by 
which judgment is expreffed. Every judgment, 
every opinion, and every propolition, is either 
true or falfe. But words which neither affirm 
nor deny any thing, can have neither of tliofe 
qualities ; and the fame may be faid of fimple 
apprehenfions, which are fignified by fuch words. 

The third operation is reafoning ; in which, 
from two or more judgments, we draw a con- 

2 This 

106 ESSAY I. [CHAP. 7. 

This divifion of our intellectual powers cor- 
refponds perfectly with the account commonly 
given by Philofophers, of the fucceffive fteps by 
which the mind proceeds in the acquifition of 
its knowledge ; which are thefe three : Firjt, 
by the fenfes, or by other means, it is furnifhed 
with various fimple apprehenfions, notions or 
ideas. Thefe are the materials which nature 
gives it to work upon ; and from the fimple ideas 
it is furnifhed with by nature, it forms various 
others more complex. Secondly, by comparing 
its ideas, and by perceiving their agreements and 
difagreements, it forms its judgments. And, lajl- 
ly, from two or more judgments, it deduces con- 
clulions of reafoning. 

Now, if all our knowledge is got by a proce- 
dure of this kind, certainly the threefold divifion 
of the powers of underftanding, into fimple ap- 
prehenfion, judgment, and reafoning, is the moll 
natural, and the moil proper, that can be devi- 
fed. This theory and that divifion are fo clofe- 
ly connected, that it is difficult to judge which 
of them has given rife to the other ; and they 
mufl ftand or fall together. But if all our know- 
ledge is not got by a procefs of this kind ; if 
there are other avenues of knowledge befides 
the comparing our ideas, and perceiving their 
agreements and difagreements, it is probable 
that there may be operations of the underftand- 


ing which cannot he properly reduced under 
any of the three that have beeh explained. 

Let us confider lome of the moft familiar ope- 
rations of our minds, and fee to which of the 
three they belong. I begin with confcioumefs. 
I know that I think, and this of all knowledge 
is the moll certain. Is that operation of my 
mind, which gives me this certain knowledge, 
to be called iimple appreheniion ? No, furely. 
Simple appreheniion neither affirms nor denies. 
It will not be laid that it is by reafoning that I 
know that I think. It remains, therefore, that 
it muft be by judgment, that is, according to the 
account given of judgment, by comparing two 
ideas, and perceiving the agreement between 
them. But what are the ideas compared .? They 
muft be the idea of myfelf, and the idea of 
thought, for they are the terms of the propolition 
I think. According to this account then, firil, 
I have the idea of myfelf, and the idea of 
thought ; then, by comparing thefe two ideas, 
I perceive that I think. 

Let any man who is capable of reflection fudge 
for himfelf, whether it is by an operation of this 
kind that he comes to be convinced that he 
thinks ? To me it appears evident, that the 
conviction I have that I think, is not got in this 
way ; and therefore I conclude, either that con- 
fcioumefs is not judgment, or that judgment is 


108 ESSAY I. [CHAP. 7, 

not rightly denned to be tHe perception of fome 
agreement or difagreement between two ideas. 

The perception of an object by my fenfes, is 
another operation of the underflanding. I would 
know whether it be limple apprehenlion, or 
judgment, or reafoning. It is not limple appre- 
henlion, becaufe I am perfuaded of the exifl- 
ence of the objecl as much as I could be by de- 
monllration. It is not judgment, if by judg- 
ment be meant the comparing ideas, and per- 
ceiving their agreements or difagreements. It 
is not reafoning, becaufe thofe who cannot rea- 
fon can perceive. 

I find the fame difficulty in claffing memory 
under any of the operations mentioned. 

There is not a more fruitful fource of error 
in this branch of philofophy, than divilions of 
things which are taken to be complete when 
they are not really fo. To make a perfect divi- 
fion of any clafs of things, a man ought to have 
the whole under his view at once. But the great- 
eft capacity very often is not fufficient for this. 
Some thing is left out which did not come un- 
der the Philofopher's view when he made his 
divilion : And to fuit this to the divifion, it mull 
be made what nature never made it. This has 
been fo common a fault of Philofophers, that 
one whc would avoid error ought to be fufpi- 
cious of divilions, though long received, and of 
great authority, efpeciallywhen they are ground- 


ed on a theory that may be called in queftion. 
In a fubject imperfectly known, we ought n otto 
pretend to perfect divifions, but to leave room 
for fuch additions or alterations as a more per- 
fect view of the fubject.may afterwards fuggeft. 

I mall not, therefore, attempt a complete enu- 
meration of the powers of the human under- 
Handing. I mail only mention thole which I 
propofe to explain, and they are the following : 

iff, The powers we have by means of our ex- 
ternal fenfes. itfiy, Memory, ^dly, Conception. 
/^tbly, The powers of refolving and analyfing 
complex objects, and compounding thofe that 
are more limple. 5^/y, Judging. 6tbly, Rea- 
foning. Jtbfy, Tafte. Stbly, Moral Perception : 
And, lajl of ail, Confcioulhefs. 


Of facial Operations of Mind. 

THERE is another divifion of the powers of 
the mind, which, though it has been, 
ought not to be, overlooked by writers on this 
fubject, becaufe it has a real foundation in na- 
ture. Some operations of our minds, from thei" 
very nature, zrefocial, others art 1 folitary. 

By the firft, I underftand fuch operations as 
neceffarily hppofe an intercourfe with fome o- 



ther intelligent being. A man may underftand 
and will ; he may apprehend, and judge, and 
reafon, though he lliould know of no intelligent 
being in the univerfe befides himfelf. But, 
when he afks information, or receives it ; when 
lie bears teftimony, or receives the teftimony of 
another ; when he afks a favour, or accepts one ; 
when he gives a command to his fervant, or re- 
ceives one from a fuperior ; when he plights his 
faith in a promife or contract ; thefe are acts of 
focial intercourfe between intelligent beings, and 
can have no place in folitude. They fuppofe 
understanding and will ; but they fuppofe fome- 
thing more, which is neither unaerftanding nor 
will \, that is, fociety with other intelligent be- 
ings. They may be called intellectual, becaufe 
they can only be in intellectual beings : But 
they are neither fimple apprehenfion, nor judg- 
ment, nor reafoning, nor are they any combina- 
tion of thefe operations. 

To afk a queftion, is as fimple an operation as 
to judge or to reafon ; yet it is neither judg- 
ment, nor reafoning, nor fimple apprehenfion, 
nor is it any compofition of thefe. Teftimony 
is neither fimple apprehenfion,. nor judgment, 
nor reafoning. The fame may be faid of a pro- 
Tdfe, or of a contract. Thefe acts of mind are 
per. feily underf:ood by every man of common 
underftand ing ; but, when Philofophcrs attempt 
to bring them within the pale of ther diviiions, 



by analyfing them, they find inexplicable my- 
fteries, and even contradictions, in them. One 
may fee an inilance of this, of many that might 
be mentioned, in Mr Hume^s Enquiry concern- 
ing the Principles of Morals, fed. 3. part 2. 
note, near the end. 

The attempts of Philofophers to reduce the 
focial operations under the common philofophi- 
cal divifions, refemble very much the attempts 
of fome Philofophers to reduce all our focial af- 
fections to certain modifications of felf-love. 
The Author of our being intended us to be fo- 
cial beings, and has, for that end, given us focial 
intellectual powers, as well as focial affections. 
Both are original parts of our conftitution, and 
the exertions of both no lefs natural than the 
exertions of thofe powers that are folitary and 

Our focial intellectual operations, as well as 
our focial affections, appear very early in life, 
before we are capable of reafoning ; *yet both 
fuppofe a conviction of the exiltence of other 
intelligent beings. When a child afks a que- 
ftion of his nurfe, this act of his mind fuppofes 
not only a defire to know what he afks ; it fup- 
pofes likewife a conviction that the nurfe is an 
intelligent being, to whom he can communicate 
his thoughts, and who can communicate her 
thoughts to him. How he came by this con- 
viction fo early, is a queftion of fome importance 


112 ESSAY I. [CHAP. 8. 


in the knowledge of the human mind, and there- 
fore worthy of the confideration of Philofophers* 
But they feem to have given no attention either 
to this early conviction, or to tho'e operations 
of mind which fuppofe it. Of this we lhall 
have occafion to treat afterwards. 

All languages are fitted to exprefs the fecial 
as well as the folitary operations of the mind. 
It may indeed be affirmed, that, to exprefs the 
former, is the primary and direct intention of 
language. A man, who had no intercourfe with 
any other intelligent being, would never think 
of language. He would be as mute as the beafts 
of the field ; even more fo, becaufe they have 
fome degree of focial intercourfe with one ano- 
ther, and fome of them with man. When lan- 
guage is once learned, it may be ufeful* even in 
our folitary meditations ; and, by clothing our 
thoughts with words, we may have a firmer hold 
of them. But this was not its firlt intention ; 
and the ftructure of every language ihews that 
it is not intended folely for this purpofe. 

In every language, a queftion, a command, a 
promife, which are focial acts, can be expreffed 
us eafily and as properly as judgment, which is 
a folitary act. The expreflion of the laft has 
been honoured with a particular name ; it is 
called a proposition ; it has been an object of 
great attention to Philofophers ; it has been 
analyfed into its very elements, of fubject, pre- 


dicate, and copula. All the various modifica- 
tions of thefe, and of propofitions which are 
compounded of them, have been anxioufly exa- 
mined in many voluminous traces. The expref- 
fion of a queftion, of a command, or of a pro- 
mife, is as capable of being analyfed as a propo- 
rtion is ; but w-e do not find that this has been 
attempted ; we have not fo much as given them 
a name different from the operations which they 

Why have fpeculative men laboured fo an- 
xioufly to analyfe our folitary operations, and 
given fo little attention to the focial ? I know 
no other reafon but this, that, in the divifions 
that have been made of the mind's operations, 
the focial have been omitted, and thereby thrown 
behind' the curtain. 

In all languages, the fecond perfon of verbs, 
the pronoun of the fecond perfon, and the voca- 
tive cafe in nouns, are appropriated to the ex- 
preffion of focial operations of mind, and could 
never have had place in language but for this 
purpofe : Nor is it a good argument againfl this 
obfervation, that, by a rhetorical figure, we 
fometimes addrefs perfons that are abfent, or 
even inanimated beings, in the fecond perfon. 
For it ought to be remembered, that all figura- 
tive ways of ufing words or phrafes, fuppofe a 
natural and literal meaning of them. 

Vol. T, H ESSAY 




Of the Organs of- Senfe. 

OF all the operations of our minds, the per- 
ception of external objects is the moil fa- 
miliar. The fenfes come to maturity even in 
infancy, when other powers have not yet fprung 
up. They are common to us with brute ani- 
mals, and furnifh us with the objects about 
which our other powers are the molt frequently 
employed. We find it eafy to attend to their 
operations ; and becaufe they are familiar, the 
names which properly belong to them are ap- 
plied to other powers, which are thought to re- 
femble them ; for thefe reafons they claim to be 
firft conlidered. 

The perception of external objects is one 
main link of that myfterious chain, which con- 

H 2 necls 

n6 essay ii. [chap, r, 

nects the material world with the intellectual. 
We {hall find many things in this operation un- 
accountable ; fufficient to convince us, that we 
know but little of our own frame ; and that a 
perfect comprehension of our mental powers, 
and of the manner of their operation, is beyond 
the reach of our underftanding. 

In perception there are impreflions upon the 
organs of fenfe, the nerves, and brain, which, 
by the laws of our nature, are followed by cer- 
tain operations of mind. Thefe two things are 
apt to be confounded ; but ought moft carefully 
to be diftinguifhed. Some Philofophers, with- 
out good reafon, have concluded, that the im- 
preflions made on the body are the proper effi- 
cient caufe of perception. Others, with as little 
reafon, have concluded, that impreflions are 
made on the mind fimilar to thofe made on the 
body. From thefe miftakes many others have 
arifen. The wrong notions men have rafhly ta- 
ken up with regard to the fenfes, have led to 
wrong notions with regard to other powers which 
are conceived to refemble them. Many impor- 
tant powers of mind have, efpecially of late, 
been called internal fenfes, from a fuppofed re- 
femblance to the external ; fuch as, the fenfe of 
beauty, the fenfe of harmony, the moral fenfe. 
And it is to be apprehended, that errors, with 
regard to the external, have, from analogy, led 
to fimilar errors with regard to the internal ; 



it is therefore of fome confequence, even with 
regard to other branches of our fubject, to have 
juft notions concerning the external fenfes. 

In order to this, we lhall begin with fome ob- 
fervations on the organs of fenfe, and on the im- 
preffions which in perception are made upon 
them, and upon the nerves and brain. 

We perceive no external object, but by means 
of certain bodily organs which God has given 
us for that purpofe. The Supreme Being who 
made us, and placed us in this world, hath given 
us fuch powers of mind as he faw to be fuited 
to our flate and rank in his creation. He has 
given us the power of perceiving many objects 
around us, the fun, moon, and ftars, the earth 
and fea, and a variety of animals, vegetables, and 
inanimate bodies. But our power of perceiving 
thefe objects is limited in various ways, and par- 
ticularly in this ; that without the organs of the 
feveral fenfes,' we perceive no external object. 
We cannot fee without eyes, nor hear without 
ears : It is not only necelfary that we mould 
hava thefe organs, but that they mould be in a 
found and natural ftate. There are many dif- 
orders of the eye that caufe total blindnefs ; o- 
thers that impair the powers of virion, without 
deftroying it altogether ; and the fame may be 
faid of the organs of all the other fenfes. 

All this is fo well known from experience, 

that it needs no proof; but it ought to be ob- 

H 3 fervea, 


ferved, that we know it from experience only. 
We can give no reafon for it, but that fuch is 
the will of our Maker. No man can mew it to 
be impoffible to the Supreme Being to have gi- 
ven us the power of perceiving external objects 
without fuch organs. We have reafon to be- 
lieve, that when we put off thefe bodies, and 
all the organs belonging to them, our perceptive 
powers ihall rather be improved than deftroyed 
or impaired. We have reafon to believe, that 
the Supreme Being perceives every thing in a 
much more perfect manner than we do, without 
bodily organs. We have reafon to believe, that 
there are other created beings endowed with 
powers of perception more perfect and more ex- 
tenfive than ours, without any fuch organs as 
we find necelfary. 

We ought not, therefore, to conclude, that 
fuch bodily organs are, in their own nature, ne- 
celfary to perception ; but rather, that, by the 
will or God, our power of perceiving external 
objects is limited and circumfcribed by our or- 
gans of fenfe ; fo that we perceive objects in a 
certain manner, and in certain circumitances, 
and in no other. 

If a man was fhut up in a dark room, fo that 
he could fee nothing but through one fmall 
hole in the fhutter of a window, Would he con- 
clude, that the hole was the caufe of his feeing, 
and that it is impoffible to fee any other way ? 



Perhaps, if he had never in his life feen but in 
this way, he might be apt to think lb ; but the 
eoncluiion is rafh and groundlefs. He fees, be- 
caufe God has given him the power of feeing ; 
and he fees only through this fmall hole, be- 
caufe his power of feeing is circumfcribed by 
impediments on all other hands. 

Another neceffary caution in this matter is, 
that we ought not to confound the organs of 
perception with the being that perceives. Per- 
ception mult be the act of fome being that per- 
ceives. The eye is not that which fees ; it is 
only the organ by which we fee. The ear is 
not that which hears ; but the organ by which 
we hear ; and fo of the reft. 

A man cannot fee the Satellites of Jupiter but 
by a telefcope. Does he conclude from this, 
that it is the telefcope that fees thofe ftars ? By 
no means ; fuch a conclufion would be abfurd. 
It is no lefs abfurd to conclude, that it is the eye 
that fees, or the ear that hears. The telefcope 
is an artificial organ of light, but it fees not. 
The eye is a natural organ of fight, by which we 
fee ; but the natural organ fees as little as the 

The eye is a machine moft admirably con- 
trived for refracting the rays of light, and form- 
ing a diftinct picture of objects upon the r tina \ 
but it fees neither the object nor the picture. It 
can form the picture after it is taken out of the 
H 4 head ; 


head ; but no vilion enfues. Even when it is in 
its proper place, and perfectly found, it is well 
known, that an obftruction in the optic nerve 
takes away vifion, though the eye has perform- 
ed all that belongs to it. 

If any thing more were neceffary to be faid 
on a point fo evident,, we might obferve, that if 
the faculty of feeing were in the eye, that of 
hearing in the ear, and fo of the other fenfes, 
the neceffary confequenee of this would be, 
that the thinking principle, which I call myfelf, 
is not one, but many. But this is contrary to 
the irrefiftible conviction of every man. When 
I fay, I fee, I hear, I feel, I remember, this im- 
plies that it is one and the fame felf that per- 
forms all thefe operations ; and as it would be 
abfurd to fay, that my memory, another man's 
imagination, and a third man's reafon, may make 
one individual intelligent being, it would be 
equally abfurd to fay y that one piece of matter 
feeing, another hearing, and a third feeling^ 
may make one and the fame percipient being. 

Thefe fentiments are not new ; they have oc-i 
curred to thinking men from early ages. Ci-. 
cero, in his Tufculan Queftions, lib. i. chap. 20. 
has expreffed them very diftinctly. Thofe who 
chufe may confult the paflage. 




Of the Imprejfions on the Organs, Nerves, 
and Brain. 

A Second law of our nature regarding per- 
ception is, that we perceive no object, 
unlefs fome impreffion is made upon the organ 
of fenfe, either by the immediate application of 
the object, or by fome medium which pafles be- 
tween the object and the organ. 

In two of our fenfes, to wit, touch and tajle? 
there mull be an immediate application of the 
object to the organ. In the other three, the ob- 
ject is perceived at a diftance, but Hill by means 
of a medium, by which fome impreffion is made 
upon the organ. 

The effluvia of bodies drawn into the noftrils 
with the breath, are the medium of fmell ; the 
undulations of the air, are the medium of hear- 
ing ; and the rays of light palling from vilible 
objects to the eye, are the medium of light. We 
fee no object, unlefs rays of light come from it 
to the eye. We hear not the found of any bo- 
dy, unlefs the vibrations of fome elaltic medium, 
occalioned by the tremulous motion of the 
founding body, reach our ear. We perceive no 
fmell, unlefs the effluvia of the fmelling body 
enter into the noftrils. We perceive no tafte„ 


122 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 1, 

unlefs the fapid body be applied to the tongue, 
or fome part of the organ of tafte. Nor do we 
perceive any tangible quality of a body, unlefs 
it touch the hands, or fome part of our body. 

Thefe are facts known from experience to hold 
univerfally and invariably, both in men and 
brutes. By this law of our nature, our powers 
of perceiving external objects are farther limi- 
ted and circumfcribed. Nor can we give any 
other reafon for this, than that it is the will of 
our Maker, who knows belt what powers, and 
what degrees of them, are fuited to our Hate. 
We were once in a ft ate, I mean in the womb. 
wherein our powers of perception were more li- 
mited than in the prefent, and, in a future 
ftate, they may be more enlarged. 

It is likewiie a law of our nature, that, in or- 
der to our perceiving objects, the impreffions 
made upon the organs of fenfe muft be commu- 
nicated to the nerves, and by them to the brain. 
This is perfectly known to thofe who know any 
thing of anatomy. 

The nerves are fine cords, which pafs from 
the brain, or from the fpinal marrow, which is 
a production of the brain, to all parts of the 
body, dividing into fmaller branches as they 
proceed, until at laft they efcape our eye-ftght : 
And it is found by experience, that all the vo- 
luntary and involuntary motions of the body are 
performed by their means. When the nerves 
i that 


that ferve any limb, are cut, or tied hard, we 
have then no more power to move that limb 
than if it was no part of the body. 

As there are nerves that ferve the mufcular 
motions, fo there are others that ferve the feve- 
ral fenfes ; and as without the former we can- 
not move a limb, fo without the latter we can 
have no perception. 

This train of machinery the wifdom of God 
has made necefTary to our perceiving objects. 
Various parts of the body concur to it, and each 
has its own function. Firjl, The object either " 
immediately, or by fome medium, muit make an 
impreffion on the organ. The organ ferves only 
as a medium, by which an impreffion is made on 
the nerve ; and the nerve ferves as a medium to 
make an impreffion upon the brain. Here the 
material part ends ; at leaf! We can trace it no 
farther ; the reft is all intellectual. 

The proof of thefe impreffions upon the nerves 
and brain in perception is this, That, from ma- 
ny obfervations and experiments, it is found, 
that when the organ of any fenfe is perfectly 
found, and has the impreffion made upon it by 
the object ever fo ftrongly ; yet, if the nerve 
which ferves that organ be cut or tied hard, 
there is no perception : And it is well known, 
that diforders in the brain deprive us of the 
power of perception, when both the organ and 
its nerve are found. 


124 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 1, 

There is therefore fufficient reafon to con- 
clude, that, in perception, the object produces 
fome change in the organ ; that the organ pro- 
duces fome change upon the nerve ; and that 
the nerve produces fome change in the brain. 
And we give the name of an impreffion to thofe 
changes, becaufe we have not a name more pro- 
per to exprefs, in a general manner, any change 
produced in a body, by an external caufe, with- 
out fpecifying the nature of that change. Whe- 
ther it be preflure, or attraction, or repulhon, or 
vibration, or fomething unknown, for which wc 
have no name, Hill it may be called an impref- 
fion. But, with regard to the particular kind of 
this change or impreffion, Philofophers have ne- 
ver been able to difcover any thing at all. 

But, whatever be the nature of thofe impref- 
fions upon the organs, nerves, and brain, we per- 
ceive nothing without them. Experience in- 
forms that it is fo ; but we cannot give a reafon 
why it is fo. In the conltitution of man, per- 
ception, by fixed laws of nature, is conneded 
with thofe impreffions ; but we can difcover no 
neceffary connection. The Supreme Being has 
feen fit to limit our power of perception ; fo 
that we perceive not without fach impreffions ; 
and this is all we know of the matter. 

This, however, we have reafon to conclude in 
general, that as the impreffions on the organs, 
nerves, and brain, correfpond exactly to the na- 


ture and conditions of the objects by which they 
are made ; fo our perceptions and fenfations cor- 
refpond to thofe impreflions, and vary in kind, 
and in degree, as they vary. Without this ex- 
act, correfpondence, the in'formation we receive 
by our fenfes would not only be imperfect, as it 
undoubtedly is, but would be fallacious, which 
we have no reafon to think it is. 


Hypothefes concerning the Nerves and Brain, 

WE are informed by Anatomilts, that al- 
though the two coats which inclofe a 
nerve, and which it derives from the coats of 
the brain, are tough and elaftic ; yet the nerve 
itfelf has a very fmall degree of confiftence, be- 
ing almoft like marrow. It has, however, a fi- 
brous texture, and may be divided and fubdivi- 
ded, till its fibres efcape our fenfes : And as we 
know fo very little about the texture of the 
nerves, there is great room left for thofe who 
chufe to indulge themfelves in conjecture. 

The ancients conjectured, that the nervous fi- 
bres are fine tubes, filled with a very fubtile fpi- 
rit or vapour, which they called animal fpirits ; 
that the brain is a gland, by which the animal 
fpirits are fecreted from the finer part of the 


126 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 3. 

blood, and their continual wafte repaired ; and 
that it is by thefe animal fpirits that the nerves 
perform their functions. Des Cartes has mown 
how, by thefe animal fpirits going and returning 
in the nerves, mufcalar motion, perception, me- 
mory, and imagination, are effected. All this 
he has defcribed as diftinctly as if he had been 
an eye-witnefs of all thofe operations. But it 
happens, that the tubular ftructure of the nerves 
was never perceived by the human eye, nor 
fhewn by the niceft injections ; and all that has 
been faid about animal fpirits through more than 
fifteen ceuturies, is mere conjecture. 

Dr Briggs, who was Sir Isaac Newton's 
mafter in anatomy, was the firft, as far as I 
know, who advanced a new fyflem concerning 
the nerves. He conceived them to be folid fi- 
laments of prodigious tenuity ; and this opinion, 
as it accords better with obfervation, feems to 
have been more generally received fince his 
time. As to the manner of performing their 
office, Dr Briggs thought, that, like mufical 
cords, they have vibrations differing according 
to their length and teniion. They feem, how- 
ever, very unfit for this purpofe, on account of 
their want of tenacity, their moiflure, and be- 
ing through their whole length in contact with 
moift fubftances : So that, although Dr Briggs 
wrote a book upon this fyflem, called Nova Vi- 



Jionis Theoria, it feems not to have been much 

Sir Isaac Newton, in all his philofophical 
writings, took great care to diftinguifh his doc- 
trines, which he pretended to prove by juft in- 
duction, from his conjectures, which were to 
{land or fall, according as future .experiments 
and obfervations fhould eflablifh or refute them. 
His conjectures he has put in the form of que- 
ries, that they might not be received as truths, 
but be enquired into, and determined according 
to the evidence to be found for or againft them. 
Thofe who miilake his queries for a part of his 
doclrine, do him great injultice, and degrade 
him to the rank of the common herd of Philo- 
fophers, who have in all ages adulterated philo- 
fophy, by mixing conjeclure with truth, and 
their own fancies with the oracles of Nature. 
Among other queries, this truly great Philofo- 
pher propofed this, Whether there may not be 
an elaftic medium, or aether, immenfely more 
rare than air, which pervades all bodies, and 
which is the caufe of gravitation ; of the refrac- 
tion and reflection of the rays of light ; of the 
tranfrnimon of heat, through fpaces void of air ; 
and of many other phenomena? In the 23d 
query fubjoined to his Optics, he puts this que-. 
ftion, with regard to the impreflions made on 
the nerves and brain in perception, Whether vi- 
rion is effected chiefly by the vibrations of this 


128 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 3. 

medium, excited in the bottom of the eye by the, 
rays of light, and propagated along thefolid, 
pellucid, and uniform capillaments of the optic 
nerve ? And whether hearing is effected by the 
vibrations of this or fome other medium, excited 
by the tremor of the air in the auditory nerves, 
and propagated along the folid, pellucid and 
uniform capillaments of thofe nerves ? And fo 
with regard to the other fenfes. 

What Newton only propofed as a matter to 
be enquired into, Dr Hartley conceived to 
have fuch evidence, that, in his Obfervations on 
Man, he has deduced, in a mathematical form, 
a very ample fyftem concerning the faculties of 
the mind, from the doctrine of vibrations, joined 
with that of affbciation. 

His notion of the vibrations, excited in the 
nerves, is exprefTed in propofitions 4. and 5. of 
the firft part of his Obfervations on Man. 
Propolition 4. External objects imprefled on 
the fenfes, occalion firft in the nerves on which 
they are imprefled, and then in the brain, vi- 
brations of the fmall, and, as one may fay, 
infinitefimal medullary particles. Prop. 5. 
The vibrations mentioned in the laft propoli- 
tion are excited, propagated, and kept up, 
partly by the aether, that is, by a very fubtile 
* elaftic fluid ; partly by the uniformity, conti- 
ff nuity, foftnefs, and active powers of the me- 

" duijarf 


" dullary fubftance of the brain, fpinal marrow, 
" and nerves." 

The modefty and diffidence with which Dr 
Hartley offers his fyfteni to the world, by de- 
fining his reader " to expect nothing but hints 
" and conjectures in difficult and obieure mat- 
" ters, and a fhort detail of the principal reafons 
" and evidences in thofe that are clear ; by ac- 
" nowledging, that he mail not be able to exe- 
" cute, with any accuracy, the proper method 
" of philofophiling, recommended and followed 
" by Sir Isaac Newton; and that he will at- 
" tempt a iketch Only for the benefit of future 
" inquirers," t em to forbid any criticifm upon 
it. One Cannot, without reluctance, criticife 
what is propofed in fuch a manner, and with fo 
good intention ; yet, as the tendency of this fy- 
ftem of vibrations is to make all the operations 
of the mind mere mechanifm, dependant on the 
laws of matter and motion ; and as it has been 
held forth by its votaries, as in a manner demon- 
Jlrated, I mall make fome remarks on that part 
of the fyftem which relates to the imprefiions 
made on the nerves and brain in perception. 

It may be obferved in general, that Dr Hart- 
ley's work confifts-of a chain of proportions^ 
with their proofs and corollaries, digefled in 
good order, and in a fcientific form. A great 
part of them, however, are, as he candidly ac- 
knowledges, conjectures and hints only j yet 

Vol. I. I ' thefe 


thefe are mixed with the proportions legitimate- 
ly proved,, without any diftinction. Corollaries- 
are drawn from them, and other proportions 
grounded upon them, which, all taken together, 
make up a fyftem. A fyftem of this kind refem- 
bles a chain, of which fome links are abundantly 
itrong, others very weak. The ftrength of the 
chain is determined by that of the weakeft links \, 
for if they give way, the whole falls to pieces,, 
and the weight, fupported by it, falls to the 

Philofophy has been in aH ages adulterated by 
hypothefes ; that is, by fyftems built partly on* 
facts, and much upon conjecture. It is pity 
that a man of Dr Hartley's knowledge and 
candour fhould have followed the multitude in 
this fallacious tract, after expreffing his appro- 
bation of the proper method of philofophifing,. 
pointed out by Bacon and Newton. The laft 
confidered it as a reproach, when his fyftem was 
caljed his hypotheiis ; and fays, with difdain of 
fuch imputation, Hypothefes nonfuigo. And it is 
very ftrange, that Dr Hartley fhould not only 
follow fuch a method of philofophifing himfelf, 
but that he fhould direct others, in their inqui- 
ries to follow it. So he does in Proportion 87:. 
Part 1. where he deduces rules for the afcertain- 
raent of truth,, from the rule of falfe in arithme- 
tic, and from the art of decyphering ; and in 
other places. 


Hypotheses concerning the nerves,^. 131 

As to the vibrations and: vibratiuncles, whe- 
ther of an elaftic aether, or of the irifmitefimal 
particles of the brain arid nerves, there may be 
fuch things for what we know ; and men may 
rationally inquire whether they can find any 
evidence of their exiftence : but while we have 
no proof of their exiftence, to apply them to the 
folution of phaenomena, and to build a fyltem 
upon them, is, what I conceive, we call, build- 
ing a caftle in the air. 

Wheri men pretend to account for any of the 
Operations of nature, the caufes afTigned by them 
ought, as Sir Isaac Newton has taught us, t6 
have two conditions, otherwife they are good 
for nothing. Firji, They ought to be true, to 
have a real exiftence, and not to be barely con- 
jectured to exift, without proof. Secondly, They 
ought to be fufficient to produce the effect.- 

As to the exiftence of vibratory motions in the 
medullary fubftance of the nerves and brain, the 
evidence produced is this : Firft, It is obferved, 
that the fenfations of feeing and hearing, and 
fome fenfations of touch, have fome fliort dura- 
tion and continuance. Secondly^ Though there 
be no direct evidence that the fenfations of tafte 
and fmell, and the greater part of thefe of touch, 
have the like continuance ; yet, fays the author, 
analogy would incline one to believe, that they 
mult referable the fenfations of fight and hearing 
in this particular. Thirdly, The continuance 
.' I 2 of 

rj^ essay ii. [chap. 3^ 

of all our fenfations being thus eftablifned, it 
follows, that external objects imprefs vibratory 
motions on the medullary fubftance of the nerves 
and brain ; becaufe no motion,, befides a vibra- 
tory one, can relide in any part for a moment of 

This is the chain of proof ; in which the firft 
link is ftrong, being confirmed by experience ; 
the fecond is very weak ; and the third ftill 
weaker. For other kinds of motion, befides that 
of vibration, may have fome continuance, fnch 
as rotation, bending or unbending of a fpring, 
and perhaps others which we are unacquainted 
with ; nor do we know whether it is motion 
that is produced in the nerves, it may be pref- 
fure, attraction-,, repulfion, or fomething we do 
not know. This, indeed, is the common refuge 
of all hypothefes, that we know no other way in 
which the phenomena may be produced, and 
therefore they mult be produced in ■ this way. 
There is therefore no proof of vibrations in the 
innnitefimal particles of the brain and nerves* 

It may be thought that the exiitence of an 
elaftic vibrating aether Hands on a firmer foun- 
dation, having the authority of Sir Isaac New- 
ton. But it ought to be obferved, that although 
this great man had formed conjectures about this 
aether near fifty years before he died, and had it 
in his eye during that long fpace as a fubject of 
inquiry ; yet it does not appear that he ever 
' found 


found any convincing proof of its exiftence, but 
coniidered it to the laft as a queftion, whether 
there be fuch an aether or not. In the premo- 
nition to the reader, prefixed to the fecond edi- 
tion of his Optics, anno 1717, he exprefTes him- 
felf thus with regard to it: " Left any one mould 
" think that I place gravity among the effential 
" properties of bodies, I have fubjoined one que- 
" ftion concerning its caufe ; a queftion, I fay, 
■" for I do not hold it as a thing eftablifhed." If, 
therefore, we regard the authority of Sir Isaac 
Newton, we ought to hold the exiftence of fuck 
an aether as a matter not eftablifhed by proof, 
but to be examined into by experiments; and I 
tiave never heard that, fince his time, any new 
evidence has been found of its exiftence. 

But, fays Dr Hartley, " fuppofing the exift- 
* c ence of the aether, and of its properties, to be 
" deftitute of all direct evidence, ftili, if it ferves 
" to account for a great variety of phenomena, 
" it will have an indirect, evidence in its favour 
" by this means." There never was an hypo- 
thefis invented by an ingenious man which has 
not this evidence in its favour. The Vortices 
of Des Cartes, the Sylphs and Gnomes of Mr 
Pope, ferve to account for a great variety of 

When a man has, with labour and ingenuity, 
wrought up an hypothefis into a fyftem, he con- 
tracts a fondnefs for it, which is apt to warp the 

I 3 beft 

134 £SSAY II. [chap. 3. 

befit judgment. This, I humbly think, appears 
remarkably in Dr Hartley. In his preface, 
he declares his approbation of the method of 
philofophifing recommended and followed by 
Sir Isaac Newton; but having firft deviated 
from this method in his practice, he is brought 
at laft to juftify this deviation in theory, and to 
bring arguments in defence of a method diame- 
trically oppofite to it. " We admit, fays he, the 
f key of a cypher to be a true one, when it ej- 
" plains the cypher completely." I anfwer, Tq 
find the key requires an underftanding equal or 
iuperior to that which made the cypher. This 
inftance, therefore, will then be in point, when 
he who attempts to decypher the works of na- 
ture by an hypothelis, has an underftanding equal 
or fuperior to that which made them. The vo- 
taries of hypothefes have often been challenged 
to fhew one uieful difcovery in the works of na- 
ture that was ever made in that way. If inftan- 
ces of this kind could be produced, we ought tq 
conclude, that Lord Bacon and Sir Isaac New- 
ton have done great diflervice to philofophy, 
by what they have faid againft hypothefes. But 
if no fuch inftance can be produced, we mult 
conclude, with thofe great men, that every fy- 
ftem which pretends to account for the pheno- 
mena of nature by hypothefes or conjecture, is 
fpurious and illegitimate, and ferves only to flat- 


ter the pride of man with a vain conceit of 
knowledge which he has not attained. 

The author tells us, '* that any hypotheiis that 
" has fo much plaufibility as to explain a 
«" confiderable number of facts,, helps us todigeft 
f* thefe facls in proper order, to bring new ones 
•*' to lightj and to make experimenta cruets for the 
" fake of future inquirers. " 

Let hypothefes be put to any of thefe ufes as 
far as they can ferve : Let them fuggefl experi- 
ments, or direct our inquiries ; but let jult inr 
.duction alone govern our belief. 

" The ruje of falfe affords an obvious and 
f* ftrong inftance of the poffibility of being led, 
** with precifron and certainty, to a true conclu- 
" lion from a falfe polition. And it is of the 
f* very effence of algebra, to proceed in the way 
" of fuppofltion." 

This is true ; but, when brought to juftify 
the accounting for natural phenomena by hypo- 
thefes, is foreign to the purpofe. When an un- 
known number, or any unknown quantity, is 
fought, which mull have certain conditions, it 
may be found in a fcientific manner, by the rule 
of falfe, or by an algebraical analyfis; and, when 
found, may be fynthetically demonftrated to be 
the number or the quantity fought, by its an- 
iwering all the conditions required. But it is 
one thing to find a quantity which mail have 
pertain conditions ; it is a very different thing 
I a to 

I36 ESSAY II. [CHAE. 3. 

to find out the laws by which it pleafes God to 
govern the world and produce the phenomena 
which fall under our obfervation. And we can 
then only allow fome weight to this argument 
in favour of hypothefes, when it can be ihewn, 
that the caufe of any one phenomenon in na- 
ture has been, or can be found, as an unknown 
quantity is, by the rule of falfe, or by algebrai- 
cal analylis. This, I apprehend, will never be, 
till the sera arrives, which Dr Hartley feems 
to foretel, '* when future generations mall put 
" all kinds of evidences and inquiries into ma- 
" thematical forms ; and, as it were, reduce 
" Aristotle's ten Categories, and Bifhop Wil- 
" kin's forty Summa Genera, to the head of 
" quantity alone, fo as to make mathematics, 
" and logic, natural hiflory, and civil hiftory, 
" natural philofophy, and philofophy of all 0- 
" ther kinds, coincide qmni ex parte" 

Since Sir Isaac Newton laid down the rules 
of philofophiiing in our inquiries into the works 
of Nature, many Philofophers have deviated 
from them in practice ; perhaps few have paid 
that regard to them which they deferve. But 
they have met with very general approbation, 
as being founded in reafon, and pointing out the 
only path to the knowledge of Nature's works. 
Dr Hartley is the only author I have met 
with, who reafons againit them, and has taken 
pains to find out arguments in defence of the 
exploded method of hypothefis. 



Another condition which Sir Isaac Newton 
requires in the caufes of natural things affigned 
by Philofophers, is, that they be fufficient to 
account for the phenomena. Vibrations and 
vibratiuncles of the medullary fubllance of the 
nerves and brain, are affigned by Dr Hartley 
to account for all our fenfations and ideas, and, 
in a word, for all the operations of our minds. 
Let us coniider very briefly how far they are 
fufficient for that purpofe. 

It would be injuftice to this author to con- 
ceive him a Materialiit. He propofes his fenti- 
ments with great candour, and they ought not 
to be carried beyond what his words exprefs. 
He thinks it a confequence of his theory, that 
matter, if it can be endued with the moil limple 
kinds of fenfation, might arrive at all that intel- 
ligence of w T hich the human mind is pofTefTed. 
He thinks that his theory overturns all the ar- 
guments that are ufually brought for the imma- 
teriality of the foul, from the fubtilty of the in- 
ternal fenfes, and of the rational faculty ; but 
he does not take upon him to determine whe- 
ther matter can be endued with fenfation or no. 
He even acknowledges, that matter and motion, 
however fubtilly divided and reaibned upon, 
yield nothing more than matter and motion Hill; 
and therefore he would not be any way inter- 
preted fo as to oppofe the immateriality of the 



It would, therefore, be unreafonable to re- 
quire that his theory of vibrations mould, in the 
proper fenfe, account for our fenfations. It 
would, indeed, be ridiculous in any man to 
pretend, that thought of any kind rauft ne- 
ceflarily refult from motion, or that vibra- 
tions in the nerves mull neceffarily produce 
thought, any more than the vibrations of a 
pendulum. Dr Hartley difclaims this way 
of thinking, and therefore it ought not to be 
imputed to him. All that he pretends is, 
that, in the human conflitution, there is a cer- 
tain connection between vibrations in the me- 
dullary fubftance of the nerves and brain, and 
the thoughts of the mind; fo that the laft de- 
pend entirely upon the firfl, and every kind of 
thought in the mind arifes in confequence of a 
correfponding vibration, or vibratiuncle in the 
nerves and brain. Our fenfations arife from vi- 
brations, and our ideas from vibratiuncles, or 
miniature vibrations ; and he comprehends, un- 
der thefe two words of fenfations and ideas, all 
the operations of the mind. 

But how can we expect any proof of the con- 
nection between vibrations and thought, when 
the exiitence of fuch vibrations was never pro- 
ved. The proof of their connection cannot be 
ftronger than the proof of their exiilence : For, 
as the author acknowledges, that we cannot in- 
fer the exiilence of the thoughts from the exiit- 
ence of the vibrations, it is no lefs evident, that 



we cannot infer the exiftence of vibrations from, 
the exiftence of our thoughts. The exiftence of 
both muft be known before we can know their 
connection. As to the exiftence of our thoughts, 
we have the evidence of confcioufnefs ; a kind 
of evidence that never was called in queftion. 
But as to the exiftence of vibrations in the me- 
dullary fubftance of the nerves and brain, no 
proof has yet been brought. 

All therefore we have to expect from this hy- 
pothecs, is, that, in vibrations confidered ab- 
ftractly, there fliould be a variety in kind and 
degree, which tallies fo exactly with the varie- 
ties of the thoughts they are to account for, as 
may lead us to fufpecl fome connection between 
the one and the other. If the divifions and fub- 
divilions of thought be found to run parallel with 
the divifions and fubdivifions of vibrations, this 
would give that kind of plauiibility to the hypo- 
thefts of their connection, which we commonly 
expect even in a mere hypothefts ; but we do not 
find even this. 

For, to omit all thofe thoughts and operations 
which the author comprehends under the name 
of ideas, and which he thinks are connected with 
vibratiuncles ; to omit the perception of exter- 
nal objects, which he comprehends under the 
name of fenfations; to omit the fenfations, pro-r 
perly fo called, which accompany our paftions 


Z$4® ESSAY II, [CHAP.3,c 

and affections, and to confine ourfelves to the 
fenfations which we have by means of our ex- 
ternal fenfes, we can perceive no correfpondence 
between the variety we find in their kinds and 
degrees, and that which may be fuppofed in vi- 
brations. • 

We have five fenfes, whofe fenfations differ to- 
tally in kind. By each of thefe, excepting per- 
haps that of hearing, we have a variety of fenfa- 
tions, which differ fpecifically, and not in degree 
only. How many taftes and fmells are there 
which are fpecifically different, each of them 
capable of all degrees of flrength and weaknefs ? 
Heat and cold, roughnefs and fmoothnefs, haid- 
nefs and foftnefs, pain and pleafure, are fenfations 
of touch that differ in kind, and each has an 
endlefs variety of degrees. Sounds have the qua- 
lities of acute and grave, loud and foft, with all 
different degrees of each. The varieties of co- 
lour are many more than we have names to ex- 
prefs. How fhall we find varieties in vibrations 
correfponding to all this variety of fenfations 
which we have by our five fenfes only? 

I know two qualities of vibrations in an uni- 
form elaftic medium, and I know no more. 
They may be quick or flow in various degrees, 
and they may be ftrong or weak in various de- 
grees ; but I cannot find any divifion of our fen- 
fations that will make them tally with thofe di- 
vifions of vibrations. If we had no other fen- 


fations but thofe of hearing, the theory would 
anfwer well ; for founds are either acute or grave, 
which may anfwer to quick or flow vibrations ; 
or they are loud or foft, which anfwer to ftrong 
or weak vibrations. But then we have no varie- 
ty of vibrations correfponding to the immenfe 
variety of fenfations which we have by fight, 
fmell, tafte, and touch. 

Dr Hartley has endeavoured to find out other 
two .qualities of vibrations; to wit, that they 
may primarily affect one part of the brain or 
another, and that they may vary in their direc- 
tion, according as they enter by different exter- 
nal nerves ; but thefe feem to be added to make 
a number : For, as far as we' know, vibrations 
in an uniform elaftic fubftance, fpread over the 
whole, and in all directions. However, that we 
may be liberal, we fhall grant him four different 
kinds of vibrations, each of them having as ma- 
ny degrees as he pleafes. Can he or any man 
reduce all our fenfations to four kinds ? We 
have five fenfes, and by each of them a variety 
of fenfations, more than fufficient to exhaufl all 
the varieties we are able to conceive in vibra- 

Dr Hartley, indeed, was fenfible of the dif- 
ficulty of finding vibrations to fait all the varie- 
ty of our fenfations. His extenflve knowledge, 
of phyfiology and pathology could yield him but 
a feeble aid ; and therefore he is often reduced 

i42 ESSAY II. f C " A P« i' 

to the necefTity of heaping fuppofition upon fup- 
pofition, conjecture upon conjecture, to give forae 
credibility to his hypothecs ; and, in feeking out 
vibrations which may correfpond with the fen- 
fations of one fertfe, he feems to forget that thofe 
muft be omitted which have been appropriated 
to another. 

Philofophers have accounted in fome degree for 
our various fenfations of found, by the vibrations 
of elaflic air. But it is to be obferved, firfti 
That we know that fuch vibrations do really 
exift ; and, fecondly, That they tally exactly 
with the moft remarkable phenomena of found. 
We cannot, indeed, fhew how any vibration 
mould produce the fenfation of found. This" 
mull be refolved into the will of God, or into 
fome caufe altogether unknown. But we know, 
that as the vibration is ftrong or weak, the 
found is loud or foft. We know, that as the vi- 
bration is quick or flow, the found is acute or 
grave. We can point out that relation of fyn- 
chronous vibrations which produces harmony or 
difcord, and that relation of fucceffive vibra- 
tions which produces melody : And all this is 
not conjectured, but proved by a fufficient in- 
duction. This account of founds, therefore, is 
philofophical ; although, perhaps, there may be 
many things relating to found that we cannot 
account for, and of which the caufes remain la- 
tent. The connections defcribed in this branch 



of philofophy are the work of God, and not the 
fancy of men. 

If any thing iimilar to this could be mown in 
accounting for all our fenfations by vibrations in 
the medullary fubftance of the nerves and brain, 
it would defer ve a place in found philofophy. 
But, when we are told of vibrations in a fub- 
ftance, which no man could ever' prove to have 
vibrations, or to be capable of them ; when fuch 
imaginary vibrations are brought to account for 
all our fenfations, though we can perceive no 
correfpondence, in their variety of kind and de- 
gree, to the variety of fenfations ; the connections 
defcribed in fuch a fyftem, are the creatures of 
human imagination, not the work of Goo. 

The rays of light make an impreflion upon the 
optic nerves; but t they make none upon the audi- 
tory or olfactory. The vibrations of the air make 
an impreffion upon the auditory nerves; but 
none upon the optic or the olfactory. The efflu- 
via of bodies make an imprefhon upon the olfac- 
tory nerves ; but make none upon the optic or au- 
ditory. No man has been able to give a fhadow 
of reafon for this. While this is the cafe, is it not 
better to confefs our ignorance of the nature of 
thofe impreffions made upon the nerves and 
brain in perception, than to flatter our pride 
with the conceit of knowledge which we have 
not, and to adulterate philofophy with the fpu?- 
rious brood of hypothecs? 

G H A ?, 

144 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 4, 


Falfe Conclujlons drawn from the ImpreJJions be- 
fore mentioned. 

SOME Fhilofophers among the ancients, as well 
as among the moderns, imagined that man 
is nothing but a piece of matter fo curioufly or- 
ganized, that the impreffions of external objects 
produce in it fenfation, perception, remem- 
brance, and all the other operations we are con- 
fcious of. This fooiifh opinion could only take 
its rife from obferving the conftant connection 
which the Author of Nature hath eftablifhed be- 
tween certain impreffions made upon our fenfes, 
and our perception of the objects by which the 
impreffion is made ; from which they weakly 
inferred, that thofe impreffions were the pro- 
per efficient caufes of the correfponding percep- 

But no reafoning is more fallacious than this, 
that becaufe two things are always conjoined, 
therefore one mull be the caufe of the other. 
Day and night have been joined in a conftant 
fucceffion fince the beginning of the world ; 
but who is fo fooiifh as to conclude from this, 
that day is the caufe of night, or night the caufe 
of the following day? There is indeed nothing 
more ridiculous than to imagine that any mo- 

False conclusions, fcfc. 145 

lion or modification of matter fhould produce 

If one fhould tell of a telefcope fo exactly 
made as to have the power of feeing; of a whif- 
pering gallery that had the power of hearing ; 
Of a cabinet fo nicely framed as to have the 
power of memory; or of a machine fo delicate 
as to feel pain when it was touched ; fuch ab- 
furdities are fo fhocking to common fenfe that 
they would not find belief even among favages; 
yet it is the fame abfurdity to think, that the 
impreffions of external objects upon the machine 
of our bodies, can be the real efficient caufe of 
thought and perception. 

Palling this therefore as a notion too abfurd 
to admit of reafoning ; another conclufion very 
generally made by Philofophers, is, that in per- 
ception an impreffion is made upon the mind as 
well as upon the organ, nerves and brain. Ari- 
stotle, as was before obferved, thought that 
the form or image of the object perceived, en- 
ters by the organ of fenfe, and ftrikes upon the 
mind. Mr Hume gives the name of impref- 
fions to all our perceptions, to all our fenfations, 
and even to the objects which we perceive. Mr 
Locke affirms very pofitively, that the ideas of 
external objects are produced in our minds by 
impulfe, " that being the only way we can 
" conceive bodies to operate .in." It ought, 
however, to be obferved, in juftice to Mr Locke, 

Vol. I. K that 

I46 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 4. 

that he retracted this notion in his firft letter to 
the Bifhop of Worcester, and promifed, in 
the next edition of his Effay to have that paf- 
fage rectified ; but either from forgetfulnefs in 
the author, or negligence in the printer, the paf- 
fage remains in all the fubfequent editions I have 

There is no prejudice more natural 'to man, 
than to conceive of the mind as having fome fi- 
militude to body in its operations. Hence, men 
have been prone to imagine, that as bodies are 
put in motion by fome impulfe or impreffion 
made upon them by contiguous bodies ; fo the 
mind is made to think and to perceive by fome 
impreffion made upon it, or fome impulfe given 
to it by contiguous objects. If we have fuch a 
notion of the mind as Homer had of his gods, 
who might be bruifed or wounded with fwords 
and fpears, we may then underftand what is 
meant by impreffions made upon it by a body : 
But if we conceive the mind to be immaterial, 
of which I think we have very ftrong proofs, 
we ihall find it difficult to affix a meaning to, 
imprejjions made upon it. 

There is a figurative meaning of impreffions 
on the mind which is well authorifed, and of 
which we took notice in the obfervations made 
on that word ; but this meaning applies only to 
objects that are interefting. To fay that an ob- 
ject which I fee with perfect indifference makes 



&n impreffion upon my mind, is not, as I appre- 
hend, good Englifh. If Philofophers mean no 
more but that I fee the object, why mould they 
invent an improper phrafe to exprefs what every 
man knows how to exprefs in plain Engliih ? 

But it is evident, from the manner in which 
this phrafe is ufed by modern Philofophers, that 
they mean not barely to exprefs by it, my per- 
ceiving an object, but to explain the manner of 
perception. They think that the - object percei- 
ved acts upon the mind, in fome way fimilar to 
that in which one body acts upon another, by 
making an imprefiion upon it. The impreffion 
upon the mind is conceived to be fomething 
wherein the mind is altogether paffive, and has 
fome effect produced in it by the object. But 
this is a hypothecs which contradicts the com- 
mon fenfe of mankind, and which ought not to 
be admitted without proof. 

When I look upon the wall of my room, the 
-wall does not act at all, nor is capable of acting ; 
the perceiving it is an act or operation in me. 
That this is the common apprehenfion of man- 
kind with regard to perception, is evident from 
the manner of expreffing it in all languages. 

The vulgar give themfelves no trouble how 
they perceive objects, they exprefs what they 
are confcious of, and they exprefs it with pro- 
priety ; but Philofophers have an avidity to 
know how we perceive objects ; and conceiving 

K 2 fome 

I48 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 4. 

fome fimilitude between a body that is put in 
motion, and a mind that is made to perceive, 
they are led to think, that as the body muft re- 
ceive fome impulfe to make it move, fo the mind 
muft receive fome impulfe or impreflion to make 
it perceive. This analogy feems to be confirmed, 
byobferving that we perceive objects only when 
they make fome impreflion upon the organs of 
fenfe, and upon the nerves and brain ; but it 
ought to be obferved, that fuch is the nature of 
body that it cannot change its ftate, but by fome 
force imprefled upon it. This is not the nature 
of mind. All that we know about it fhows it to 
be in its nature living and active, and to have 
the power of perception in its conftitution, but 
ftill within thofe limits to which it is confined 
by the laws of Nature. 

It appears, therefore, that this phrafe of. the 
mind's having impreflions made upon it by cor- 
poreal objects in perception, is either a phrafe 
without any diftinct meaning, and contrary to 
the propriety of the Englifh language, or it is 
grounded upon an hypothefis which is deftitute 
of proof. On that account, though we grant 
that in perception there is an impreflion made 
upon the organ of fenfe, and upon the nerves 
and brain, we do not admit that the object makes 
any impreflion upon the mind. 

There is another concluflon drawn from the 
impreffions made upon the brain in perception, 



which I conceive to have no folid foundation, 
though it has been adopted very generally by 
Philofophers. It is, that by the impreffions made 
on the brain, images are formed of the object 
perceived ; and that the mind, being feated in 
the brain as its chamber of prefence, immediate- 
ly perceives thofe images only, and has no per- 
ception of the external object but by them. This 
notion of our perceiving external objects, not im- 
mediately, but in certain images or fpecies of 
them conveyed by the fenfes, feems to be the 
moll ancient philosophical hypothecs we have 
on the Subject of perception, and to have, with 
fmall variations, retained its authority to this 

Aristotle, as was before obferved, maintain- 
ed, that the fpecies, images, or forms of external 
objects, coming from the object, are imprefTed 
on the mind. The followers of Democritus 
and Epicurus held the fame thing, with regard 
to flender films of fubtile matter coming from 
the object, that Aristotle did with regard to 
his immaterial fpecies or forms. 

Arjstotle thought, that every object of human 
understanding enters at firit by the fenfes; and 
that the notions got by them are by the powers 
of the mind refined and fpiritualized, fo as at 
laft to become objects of the moft fublime and 
abftracted fciences. Plato, on the other hand, 
had a very mean opinion of all the knowledge 

K 3 we 

150 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 4. 

we get by the fenfes. He thought it did not 
deferve the name of knowledge, and could not 
be the foundation of fcience ; becaufe the ob- 
jects of fenfe are individuals only, and are in 
a conftant fluctuation. All fcience, according 
to him, muft be employed about thofe eternal 
and immutable ideas, which exifted before the 
objects of fenfe, and are not liable to any change. 
In this there was an effential difference between 
the fyftems of thefe two Philofophers. The no- 
tion of eternal and immutable ideas, which 
Plato borrowed from the Pythagorean fchool, 
was totally rejected by Aristotle, who held 
it as a maxim, that there is nothing in the intel- 
lect, which was not at firfl in the fenfes. 

But, notwithftanding this great difference in 
thofe two ancient fyftems, they might both agree 
as to the manner in which we perceive objects 
by our fenfes : Ancj. that they did fo, I think, is 
probable; becaufe Aristotle, as far as I know, 
neither takes notice of any difference between 
himfelf and his matter upon this point, nor lays 
claim to his theory of the manner of our perceiv- 
ing objects as his own invention. It is ftill more 
probable from the hints which Plato gives in 
the feventh book of his Republic, concerning the 
manner in which we perceive the objects of fenfe; 
which he compares to perfons in a deep and dark 
pave, who fee not external objects themfeives, 



but only their fhadows, by a light let into the 
cave through a fmall opening. 

It feems, therefore, probable, that the Pytha- 
goreans and Platonifts agreed with the Peripate- 
tics in this general theory of perception ; to wit, 
that the objects of fenfe are perceived only by 
certain images, or fhadows of them, let into the 
mind, as into a camera obfcura. 

The notions of the ancients were very various 
with regard to the feat of the foul. Since it has 
been difcovered, by the improvements in anato- 
my, that the nerves are the inftruments of percep- 
tion, and of the fenfations accompanying it, and 
that the nerves ultimately terminate in the brain, 
it has been the general opinion of Philofophers 
that the brain is the feat of the foul ; and that 
ihe perceives the images that are brought there, 
and external things only by means of them. 

Des Cartes, obferving that the pineal gland 
is the only part of the brain that is fingle, all 
the other parts being double, and thinking that 
the foul mull have one feat, was determined by 
this to make that gland the foul's habitation, to 
which, by means of the animal fpirits, intelli- 
gence is brought of all objects that affect the 

Others have not thought proper to confine the 

habitation of the foul to the pineal gland, but 

to the brain in general, or to fome part of it, 

which they call the fenforium. Even the great 

K 4 Newton 

I $2 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 4. 

NfWTON favoured this opinion, though he pro- 
pofes it only as a query, with that modefty which 
diftinguiihed him no lefs than his great genius. 
" Is not, fays he, the fenforiurn of animals the 
" place where the fentient fubftance is prefent, 
" and to which the fenfible fpecies of things are 
** brought through the nerves and brain, that 
'* there they may be perceived by the mind pre- 
" fent in that place ? And is there not an incor- 
" poreal, living, intelligent, and omniprefent 
* l Being, who, in infinite fpace, as if it were in 
" his fenforiurn, intimately perceives things 
" themfelves, and comprehends them perfectly, 
" as being prefent to them ; of which things, 
" that principle in us, which perceives and 
" thinks, difcerns only, in its little fenforiurn, 
" the images brought to it through the organs 
" ofthefenfes?" 

His friend Dr Samuel Clarke, adopted 
the fame fentiment with more confidence. In 
his papers to Leibnitz, we find the following 
paffages : " Without being prefent to the ima- 
<i ges of the things perceived, it (the foul) could 
" not poffibly perceive them. A living fubftance. 
" can only there perceive where it is prefent, 
" either to the things themfelves, (as the omni- 
'• prefent God is to the whole univerfe), or to 
'■' the images of things, (as the foul of man is in 
(i its proper fenfory). Nothing can any more 
M ad, or be ad:ed upon, where it is not prefent, 

" than 


*' than it can be where it is not. We are fure 
" the foul cannot perceive what it is not prefent 
" to, becaufe nothing can act, or be acted upon, 
" where it is not." 

Mr Locke expreffes himfelf fo upon this point, 
that for the moft part, one would imagine, that 
he thought that the ideas, or images of things, 
which he believed to be the immediate objects 
of perception, are impreffions upon the mind it- 
felf ; yet, in fome paflages, he rather places them 
in the brain, and makes them to be perceived by 
the mind there prefent. " There are fome ideas, 
" fays he, which have admittance only through 
" one fenfe; and if the organs or the nerves, 
" which are the conduits to convey them from 
" without to their audience in the brain, the 
" mind's prefence-room, if I may fo call it, are 
" fo difordered as not to perform their function, 
" they have no pofhern to be admitted by. 

" There feems to be a conftant decay of all 
" our ideas, even of thofe that are ftruck deep- 
" eft. The pictures drawn in our minds are 
" laid in fading colours. Whether the temper 
" of the brain makes this difference, that in 
"■ fome it retains the characters drawn on it 
" like marble, in others like free-Hone, and in 
" others little better than fand, I mall not en- 
" quire." 

From thefe pafTages of Mr Locke, and others 
pf a like nature, it is plain, that he thought that 


^54 ESSAY II. [chap. 4. 

there are images of external objects conveyed to 
the brain. But whether he thought with De's 
Cartes and Newton, that the images in the 
brain are perceived by the mind there prefent, 
or that they are imprinted on the mind itfelf, is 
not fo evident. 

Now, with regard to this hypothefis, there are 
three things that deferve to be considered, be- 
caufe the hypothefis leans upon them ; and, if 
any one of them fail, it muft fall to the ground. 
Thzfirjt is, That the foul has its feat, or, as Mr 
Locke calls it, its prefence-room, in the brain. 
The fecond, That there are images formed in 
the brain of all the objects of fenfe. The third, 
-That the mind or foul perceives thefe images in 
the brain ; and that it perceives not external ob- 
jects immediately, but only by means of their 

As to the firjl point, That the foul has its feat 
in the brain, this, furely, is not fo well eftabifh- 
ed, as that we can fafely build other principles 
upon it. There have been various opinions and 
much difputation about the place of fpirits ; whe- 
ther they have a place ? and if they have, how 
they occupy that place? After men had fought 
in the dark about thefe points for ages, the wifer 
part feeiri to have left off difputing about them, 
,as matters beyond the reach of the human facul- 



As to the fecond point, That images of all the 
objects of fenfe are formed in the brain, we may 
venture to affirm, that there is no proof nor pro- 
bability of this, with regard to any of the ob- 
jects of fenfe; and that with regard to the 
greater part of them, it is words without any 

We have not the leaft evidence that the i- 
mage of any external object is formed in the 
brain. The brain has been diffected times in- 
numerable by the niceft Anatomifts ; every part 
of it examined by the naked eye, and with the 
help of microfcopes; but no veftige of an image 
of any external object was ever found. The 
brain feems to be the moil improper fubftance 
that can be imagined for receiving or retain- 
ing images, being a foft moift medullary fub- 

But how are thefe images formed ? or whence 
do they come ? Says Mr Locke, the organs of 
fenfe and nerves convey them from without. 
This is juft the Ariftotelian hypothelis of fen- 
lible fpecies, which modern Philofophers have 
been at great pains to refute, and which mull 
be acknowledged to be one of the moll unintel- 
ligible parts of the Peripatetic fyflem. Thofe 
who conlider fpecies of colour, figure, found, and 
fmcll, coming from the object, and entering by 
the organs of fenfe, as a part of the fcholaflic 
jargon, long ago difcarded from found philofo- 

P h 7» 

I56 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 4. 

phy, ought to have difcarded images in the brain 
along with them. There never was a fhadow of 
argument brought by any author, to fhow that 
an image of any external object ever entered by 
any of the organs of fenfe. 

That external objects make fome imprefiion 
on the organs of fenfe, and by them on the 
nerves and brain, is granted ; but that thofe im- 
preffions referable the objects they are made by, 
fo as that they may be called images of the ob- 
jects, is moil improbable. Every hypothecs 
that has been contrived fhews that there can be, 
no fuch refemblance ; for neither the motions 
of animal fpirits, nor the vibrations of elailie 
chords, or of elaflic aether, or of the infinitefimal 
particles of the nerves, can be fuppofed to re- 
femble the objects by which they are excited, 

We know, that, in vilion, an image of the vi- 
able object is formed in the bottom of the eye 
by the rays of light. But we know alfo, that 
this iinage cannot be conveyed to the brain, be- 
caufe the optic nerve, and all the parts that fur- 
round it, are opaque and impervious to the rays 
of light; and there is no other organ of fenfe 
in which any image of the object is formed. 

It is farther to be obferved, that, with regard 
to fome objects of fenfe, we may underftand what 
is meant by an image of them imprinted on the 
brain ; but, with regard to mofl objects of fenfe, 
the phrafe is abfolutely unintelligible, and con- 


veys no meaning at all. As to objects of fight, 
I underftand what is meant by an image of their 
figure in the brain : But how fhall we conceive 
an image of their colour where there is abfolute 
darknefs? And as to all other objects of fenfe, 
except figure and colour, I am unable to con- 
ceive what is meant by an image of them. Let 
any man fay, what he means by an image of 
heat and cold, an image of hardnefs or foftnefs, 
an image of found, of fmell, or tafte. The word 
image 1 when applied to thefe objects of fenfe, 
has abfolutely no meaning. Upon what a weak 
foundation, then, does this hypothecs ftand, 
when it fuppofes, that images of all the objects 
of fenfe are imprinted on the brain, being con- 
veyed thither by the conduits of the organs and 

The third point in this hypothecs, is, That 
the mind perceives the images in the brain, and 
external objects only by means of them. This 
is as improbable, as that there are fuch images 
to be perceived. - If our powers of perception be 
not altogether fallacious, the objects we perceive 
are not in our brain, but without us. We are 
fo far from perceiving images in the brain, that 
we do not perceive our brain at all ; nor would 
any man ever have known that he had a brain, 
if anatomy had not difcovered, by difTection, 
that the brain is a conftituent part of the human 


15$ ESSAY II. [CHAP. 4. 

To fum up what has been faid with regard to 
the organs of perception, and the impreffions 
made upon our nerves and brain. It is a law of 
our nature, eftablifhed by the will of the Su- 
preme Being, that we perceive no external ob- 
ject but by means of the organs given us for 
that purpofe. But thefe organs do not perceive. 
The eye is the organ of fight, but it fees not A 
telefcope is an artificial, organ of light. The 
eye is a natural organ of light, but it fees as 
little as the telefcope. We know how the eye 
forms a picture of the vifible object upon the re- 
tina ; but how this picture makes us fee the ob- 
ject we know not ; and if experience had not 
informed us that fuch a picture is necelfary to 
vifion, we fhould never have known it. We 
can give no reafon why the picture on the re- 
tina fhould be followed by vifion, while a like 
picture on any other part of the body produces 
nothing like vifion. 

It is likewife a law of our nature, that we 
perceive not external objects, unlefs certain im- 
preffions be made by the object upon the organ, 
and by means of the organ upon the nerves and 
brain. But of the nature of thofe impreffions 
we are perfectly ignorant ; and though they are 
conjoined with perception by the will of our 
Maker, yet it does not appear that they have 
any neceffary connection with it in their own 
nature, far lefs that .they can be the proper 



efficient caufe of it. We perceive, becaufe God 
has given us the power of perceiving, and not 
becaufe we have impreffions from objects. We 
perceive nothing without thofe impreffions, be- 
caufe our Maker has limited and circumfcribed 
our powers of perception, by fuch laws of Na- 
ture as to his wifdom feemed meet, and fuch as 
fuited our rank in his creation. 


Of Perception. 

N fpeaking of the impreffions made on our or- 
gans in perception, we build upon fads bor- 
rowed from anatomy and phyfiology, for which 
we have the teftimony of our fenfes. But being 
now to fpeak of perception itfelf, which is fole- 
ly an act of the mind, we mult appeal to ano- 
ther authority. The operations of our minds 
are known not by fenfe, but by confcioufnefs, 
the authority of which is as certain and as irre- 
iiftible as that of fenfe. 

In order, however, to our having a diftinct 
notion of any of the operations of our own 
minds, it is not enough that we be confcious of 
them, for all men have this confcioufnefs : It is 
farther neceffary that we attend to them while 
they are exerted, and reflect upon them with care, 


l60 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 5. 

while they are recent and frefh in our memory. 
It is neceflary that, by employing ourfelves fre- 
quently in this way, we get the habit of this at- 
tention and reflection; and therefore, for the 
proof of fads which I fhall have occafion to 
mention upon this fubjecl, I can only appeal to 
the reader's own thoughts, whether fuch facts 
are not agreeable to what he is confcious of in 
his own mind. 

If, therefore, we attend to that act of our 
mind which we call the perception of an external 
object of fenfe, we fhall find in it thefe three 
things. Fir/l, Some conception or notion of the 
object perceived. Secondly, A flrong and irre- 
iiftible conviction and belief of its prefent exist- 
ence. And, thirdly, That this conviction and 
belief are immediate, and not the effect of rea- 

Fir/l, It is impoffible to perceive an object 
without having fome notion or conception of 
that which we perceive. We may indeed con- 
ceive an object which we do not perceive ; but 
when we perceive the object, we muft have fome 
conception of it at the fame time; and we have 
commonly a more clear and fteady notion of the- 
object while we perceive it, than we have from 
memory or imagination when it is not percei- 
ved. Yet, even in perception, the notion whiert 
our fenfes give of the object may be more or 



lefs clear, more or lefs diftinct,. in all poflible 

Thus we fee more diftinctly an object at a finall 
than at a great diflance. An object at a great di= 
fiance is feen more diftinctly in a clear than in a 
foggy day. An object feen indiftinctly with the 
naked eye, on account of its fmallnefs, may be feen 
diftinctly with a microfcope. The objects in this 
room will be feen by a perfon in the room lefs 
and lefs diftinctly as the light of the day fails 5 
they pafs through all the various degrees of di- 
ftinctnefs according to the degrees of the light, 
and at laft, in total darknefs, they are not feen at 
all. What has been faid of the objects of light 
is fo eafily applied to the objects of the other 
fenfes, that the application may be left to the 

In a matter fo obvious to every perfon capable 
of reflection, it is necelfary only farther to ob- 
ferve, that the notion which we get of an object, 
merely by our external fenfe, ought not to be 
confounded with that more fcientific notion 
which a man, come to the years of understanding, 
may have of the fame object, by attending to its 
various attributes, or to its various parts, and 
their relation to each other, and to the whole. 
Thus the notion which a child has of a jack for 
roafting meat, will be acknowledged to be very 
different from that of a man who underftands its 
conftruction, and perceives the relation of the 

Vol. I. L parts 

l62 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 5, 

parts to one another, and to the whole. The 
child fees the jack and every part of it as well 
as the man: The child, therefore, has all the no- 
tion of it which light gives ; whatever there is 
more in the notion which the man forms of it, 
mult be derived from other powers of the mind, 
which may afterwards be explained. This ob« 
fervation is made here only, that we may not 
confound the operations of different powers of 
the mind, which, by being always conjoined af- 
ter we grow up to underitanding, are apt to pafs 
for one and the fame. 

Secondly, In perception we not only have a no- 
tion more or lefs diftinct of the object perceived, 
but alfo an irrefiftible conviction and belief of its 
exirtence. This is always the cafe when we are 
certain that we perceive it. There may be a 
perception fo faint and indiftinct, as to leave us 
in doubt whether we perceive the object or 
not. Thus, when a Itar begins to twinkle as the 
light of the fun withdraws, one may, for a fhort 
time, think he fees it, without being certain, un- 
til the perception acquires fome ftrength and 
Iteadinefs. When a (hip juil begins to appear in 
the utmoft verge of the horizon, we may at firft 
be dubious whether we perceive it or not : But 
when the perception is in any degree clear and 
Heady, there remains no doubt of its reality ; 
and when the reality of the perception is afcer- 



tained, the exiftence of the object perceived can 
no longer be doubted. 

By the laws of all nations, in the moft folemn 
judicial trials wherein mens fortunes and live9 
are at Hake, the fentence palTes according to the 
teftimony of eye or ear witneffes of good credit. 
An upright judge will give a fair hearing to every 
objection that can be made to the integrity of a 
witnefs, and allow it to be poflible that he 
may be corrupted • but no judge will ever fup- 
pofe, that witneffes may be impofed upon by 
trading to their eyes and ears : And if a fcepti- 
cal counfel fhould plead againft the teftimony of 
the w r itneffes, that they had no other evidence 
for what they declared, but the teftimony of 
their eyes and ears, and that we ought not to put 
fo much faith in our fenfes, as to deprive men 
of life or fortune upon their teftimony ; furely 
no upright judge would admit a plea of this 
kind. I believe no counfel, however iceptical, 
ever dared to offer fuch an argument ; and, if it 
was offered, it would be rejected with difdain. 

Can any flronger proof be given, that it is 
the univerfal judgment of mankind that the evi- 
dence of fenfe is a kind of evidence which we 
may fecurely reft upon in the moft momentous 
concerns of mankind : That it is a kind of evi- 
dence againft which we ought not to admit any 
reafoning ; and therefore, that to reafon either 
for or againft it, is an infult to common fenfe ? 

L 2 ' The 

164 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 5, 

The whole conduct of mankind, in the daily 
ocCurrences of life, as well as the folemn proce- 
dure of judicatories in the trial of caufes civiL 
and criminal, demonftrates this. I know only 
of two exceptions that may be offered againft 
this being the univerfal belief of mankind. 

The firft exception is that of fome lunatics, 
who have been perfuaded of things that feem to 
contradict the clear teftimony of their fenfes. It 
is faid there have been lunatics and hypochon- 
driacal perfons, who ferioufly believed them- 
felves to be made of glafs ; and, in confequence 
of this, lived in continual terror of having their 
brittle frame fhivered into pieces. 

All I have to fay to this is, that our minds, in 
our prefent ftate, are, as well as our bodies, li- 
able to ftrange diforders ; and as we do not 
judge of the natural conftitution of the body, 
from the diforders or difeafes to which it is fub- 
jec"t from accidents, fo neither ought we to judge 
of the natural powers of the mind from its dif- 
orders, but from its found ftate. It is natural 
to man, and common to the fpecies, to have two 
hands and two feet ; yet I have feen a man,..and 
a very ingenious one, who was born without ei-- 
ther hands or feet. It is natural to man to have 
faculties fuperior to thofe of brutes ; yet we fee 
fome individuals, whofe faculties are not equal 
to thofe of many brutes ; and the wifelt man 
may, by various accidents, be reduced to this 



ftate. General rules that regard thofe whofe 
intellects are found, are not overthrown by in- 
ftances of men whofe intellects are hurt by any 
conltitutional or accidental diforder. 

The other exception that may be made to the 
principle we have laid down, is that of fome Phi- 
lofophers who have maintained, that the telti- 
mony of fenfe is fallacious, and therefore ought 
never to be trufted. Perhaps it might be a fuf- 
fieient anfwer to this to fay, that there is nothing 
fo abfurd which fome Philofophers have not 
maintained. It is one thing to profefs a doc- 
trine of this kind, another ferioully to believe it, 
and to be governed by it in the conduct of life. 
It is evident, that a man who did not believe his 
fenfes, could not keep out of harm's way an hour 
of his life ; yet, in all the hiitory of philofophy, 
we never read of any fceptic that ever ftepped 
into fire or water becaufe he did not believe his 
fenfes, or that (hewed, in the conduct of life, lefs 
trull in his fenfes than other men have. This 
gives us juft ground to apprehend, that philofo- 
phy was never able to conquer that natural be- 
lief which men have in their fenfes ; and that 
all their fubtile reafonings againft this belief 
were never able to periuade themfelves. 

It appears, therefore, that the clear and di- 
ftinct teftimony of our fenfes carries irreiiitible 
conviction along with it, to every man in his 
right judgment. 

L 3 I 

i66 essay ir. [chap. 5. 

I obferved, thirdly, That this conviction is not 
only irrefifbible, but it is immediate ; that is, it 
is not by a train of reafoning and argumentation 
that we come to be convinced of the exiftence 
of what we perceive ; we afk no argument for 
the exiftence of the object, but that we perceive 
it : perception commands our belief upon its 
own authority, and difdains to reft its authority 
upon any reafoning whatfoever. 

The conviction of a truth may be irreiiftible, 
and yet not immediate. Thus, my conviciion 
that the three angles of every plain triangle are 
equal to two right angles, is irrenftible, but it is 
not immediate : I am convinced of it by de- 
monftrative reafoning. There are other truths 
in mathematics of which we have not only an 
irreftible, but an immediate conviction. Such 
are the axioms. Our belief of the axioms in 
mathematics is not grounded upon argument, 
Arguments are grounded upon them, but their 
evidence is difcerned immediately by the human 

It is, no doubt, one thing to have an imme- 
diate conviction of a felf-evident axiom ; it is 
another thing to have an immediate conviction, 
of the exiftence of what we fee : But the con- 
viction is equally immediate and equally irrelift- 
ible in both cafes. No man thinks of feeking a 
reafon to believe what he fees ; and, before we 
are capable of reafoning, we put no lefs confi- 


iidence in our fenfes than after. The rudeft 
favage is as fully convinced of what he fees, and 
hears, and feels, as the mod expert logician. 
The conftitution of our underftanding deter- 
mines us to hold the truth of a mathematical 
axiom as a firft principle, from which other 
truths may be deduced, but it is deduced from 
none ; and the conftitution of our power of per- 
ception determines us to hold the exifteno of 
what we diftindtly perceive as a firft principle, 
from which other truths may be deduced, but 
it is deduced from none. What has been faid 
of the irreliftible and immediate belief of the 
exiftence of objects diftincTJy perceived, I mean 
only to affirm with regard to perfons fo far ad- 
vanced in underftanding, as to diftinguifh objects 
of mere imagination from things which have a 
real exiftence. Every man knows that he may 
have a notion of Don Quixote or of Garagan- 
tua, without any belief that fuch perfons ever 
exifted ; and that of Julius Caefar and of Oliver 
Cromwell, he has not only a notion, but a belief 
that they did really exift. But whether chil- 
dren, from the time that they begin to ufe their 
fenfes, make a diftinction between things which 
are only conceived or imagined, and things 
which really exift, may be doubted. Until we 
are able to make this diftindtion, we cannot pro- 
perly be faid to believe or to difbelieve the ex- 
iftence of any thing. The belief of the exiftence 
L 4 of 

i68 essay ii. [chap. 5. 

of any thing feems to fuppofe a notion of exift- 
ence ; a notion too abftracT:, perhaps, to enter in- 
to the mind of an infant. I fpeak of the power of 
perception in thofe that are adult, and of a found 
mind, who believe that there are fome things 
which do really exift ; and that there are many 
things conceived by themfelves, and by others, 
which have no exiftence. That fuch perfons 
do invariably afcribe exiftence to every thing 
which they diftin&ly perceive, without feeking 
reafons or arguments for doing fo, is perfectly 
evident from the whole tenor of human life. 

The account I have given of our perception 
of external obje&s, is intended as a faithful de- 
lineation of what every man, come to years of 
underftanding, and capable of giving attention 
to what paffes in his own mind, may feel in 
himfelf. In what manner the notion of exter- 
nal objedts, and the immediate belief of their 
exiftence, is produced by means of our fenfes, I 
am not able to fhew, and I do not pretend to 
ihew. If the power of perceiving external ob- 
jects in certain circumftances, be a part of the 
original conftitution of the human mind, all at- 
tempts to account for it will be vain : No other 
account can be given of the conftitution of things, 
but the will of Him that made them. As we 
can give no reafon why matter is extended and 
Inert, why the mind thinks, and is confcious of 
its thoughts, but the will of Him who made 

both 1 


both ; fo I fufpect we can give no other reafon 
why, in certain circumftances, we perceive ex- 
ternal objects, and in others do not. 

The Supreme Being intended, that we fhould 
have fuch knowledge of the material objects that 
furround us, as is necelTary in order to our fup- 
plying the wants of nature, and avoiding the 
dangers to which we are conftantly expofed ; 
and he has admirably fitted our powers of per- 
ception to this purpofe. If the intelligence we 
have of external objects were to be got by rea- 
foning only, the greateft part of men would be 
deftitute of it ; for the greateft part of men 
hardly ever learn to reafon ; and in infancy and 
childhood no man can reafon : Therefore, as 
this intelligence of the objects that furround us, 
and from which we may receive fo much bene- 
fit or harm, is equally necelTary to children and 
to men, to the ignorant and to the learned, God 
in his wifdom conveys it to us in a way that puts 
all upon a level. The information of the fenfes 
is as perfect, and gives as full conviction to the 
moft ignorant, as to the moll learned. 




What it is to account for a Phenomenon in 

AN object placed at a proper diftance, and 
in a good light, while the eyes are fhut, 
is not perceived at all ; but no fooner do we 
open our eyes upon it, than we have, as it were 
by infpiration, a certain knowledge of its exift- 
ence, of its colour, figure, and diftance. This 
is a fact which every one knows. The vulgar 
are fatisfied with knowing the fact, and give 
themfelves no trouble about the caufe of it : 
But a Philofopher is impatient to know how this 
event is produced, to account for it, or aflign its 

This avidity to know the caufes of things is 
the parent of all philofophy true and falfe. Men 
of fpeculation place a great part of their happi- 
nefs in fuch knowledge. Felix qui potuit rerum 
cognofcere caufas, has always been a fentiment 
of human nature. But as, in the purfuit of 
other kinds cf happinefs, men often miftake the 
road ; fo in none nave they more frequently 
done it, than in the philofophical purfuit of the 
caufes of things. 



It is a dictate of common fenfe, that the cau- 
fes we affign of appearances ought to be real, 
and not fictions of human imagination. It is 
likewife felf-evident, that fuch caufes ought to 
be adequate to the effects that are conceived to 
be produced by them. 

That thofe who are lefs accuflomed to inqui- 
ries into the caufes of natural appearances, may 
the better underftand what it is to fhew the 
caufe of fuch appearances, or to account for 
them ; I fhall borrow a plain inftance of a phe- 
nomenon or appearance, of which a full and fa- 
tisfactory account has been given. The phe- 
nomenon is this : That a ftone, or any heavy 
body, falling from a height, continually increa- 
fes its velocity as it defcends ; fo that if it ac- 
quire a certain velocity in one fecond of time, 
it will have twice that velocity at the end of 
two feconds, thrice at the end of three feconds, 
-and fo on in proportion to the time. This ac- 
celerated**a^pcity in a ftone falling mud have 
been obferved from the beginning of the world ; 
but the firft perfon, as far as we know, who ac- 
counted for it in a proper and philofophical 
manner, was the famous Galileo ; after innu- 
merable falfe and fictitious accounts had been 
given of it. 

He obferved, that bodies once put in motion 
continue that motion with the fame velocity, 
and in the fame direction, until they be flopped 


17* ESSAY II. [chap. 6. 

or retarded, or have the direction of their mo- 
tion altered, by fome force impreffed upon them. 
This property of bodies is called their inertia, or 
inactivity ; for it implies no more than that bodies 
cannot of themfelves change their Hate from reft 
to motion, or from motion to reft. He obferved 
alfo, that gravity acts conftantly and equally up- 
on a body, and therefore will give equal degrees 
of velocity to a body in equal times. From 
thefe principles, which are known from expe- 
rience to be fixed laws of Nature, Gaxileo 
{hewed, that heavy bodies mult defcend with a 
velocity uniformly accelerated, as by experience 
they are found to do. 

For if the body by its gravitation acquire a 
certain velocity at the end of one fecond, it 
would, though its gravitation mould ceafe that 
moment, continue to go on with that velocity ; 
but its gravitation continues, and will in another 
fecond give it an additional velocity, equal to 
that which it gave in the firft ; fo that the whole 
velocity at the end of two feconds will be twice 
as great as at the end of one. In like manner, 
this velocity being continued through the third 
fecond, and having the fame addition by gra- 
vitation as in any of the preceding, the whole 
velocity at the end of the third fecond will be 
thrice as great as at the end of {he firft, and fo 
pn continually. 



We may here obferve, that the caufes affign- 
ed of this phenomenon are two : Firjl, That 
bodies once put in motion retain their velocity 
and their direction until it is changed by fome 
force imprefTed upon them. Secondly, That the 
weight or gravitation of a body is always the 
fame. Thefe are laws of Nature, confirmed by 
univerfal experience, and therefore are not feign- 
ed but true caufes ; then, they are precifely ade- 
quate to the effect afcribed to them ; they muff 
neceffarily produce that very motion in defend- 
ing bodies which we find to take place ; and 
neither more nor lefs. The account therefore 
given of this phenomenon is juft and philofo- 
phical ; no other will ever be required or ad- 
mitted by thofe who underftand this. 

It ought likewife to be obferved, that the 
caufes affigned of this phenomenon are things 
of which we can affign no caufe. Why bodies 
once put in motion continue to move ; why bo- 
dies conftantly gravitate towards the earth with 
the fame force, no man has been able to fhow : 
Thefe are facts confirmed by univerfal experi- 
ence, and they mull no doubt have a caufe ; but 
their caufe is unknown, and we call them laws 
of Nature, becaufe we know no caufe of them 
but the will of the Supreme Being. 

But may we not attempt to find the caufe of 
gravitation, and of other phenomena which we 
call laws of Nature .? No doubt we may. We 


174 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 6, 

know not the limit which has been fet to human 
knowledge, and our knowledge of the works of 
God can never be carried too far : But, fuppo- 
iing gravitation to be accounted for, by an cethe- 
real elaftic medium for inftance, this can only be 
done, firjl) by proving the exiftence and the ela- 
fticity of this medium \ andj fecondly, by mow- 
ing, that this medium muft neceffarily produce 
that gravitation which bodies are known to have. 
Until this be done, gravitation is not accounted 
for, nor is its caufe known ; and when this is 
done, the elalticity of this medium will be con- 
iidered as a law of Nature, v.hofe caufe is un- 
known. The chain of natur al cauies has, not 
unfitly, been compared to a chain hanging down 
from heaven : A link that is difcovered fupports 
the links below it, but it muft itfelf be fupport- 
ed ; and that which fupports it muft be fupport- 
ed, until we come to the firft link, which is fup- 
ported by the throne of the Almighty. Every 
natural caufe muft have a caufe, until we afcend 
to the firft caufe, which is uncaufed, and ope- 
rates not by neceffity but by will. 

By what has been faid in this Chapter, thofe 
who are but little acquainted with philofophi- 
cal inquiries may fee what is meant by account- 
ing for a phasnomenon, or mowing its caufe, 
which ought to be well underftood, in order to 
judge of the theories by which Philofophers 




have attempted to account for our perception of 
external objects by the fenfes. 


Sentiments of Philofophers about the Perception 
of external Objecls j and, firjl, 

Of the Theory of Father Malebranche. 

OW the correfpondence is carried on be- 
tween the thinking principle within us ? 
and the material world without us, has always 
been found a very difficult problem to thofe 
Philofophers who think themfelves obliged to ac- 
count for every phenomenon in nature. Many 
Philofophers, ancient and modern, have employ- 
ed their invention to difcover how we are made 
to perceive external objects by our fenfes : And 
there appears to be a very great uniformity in 
their fentiments in the main, notwithftanding 
their variations in particular points. 

Plato illuftrates our manner of perceiving 
the objects of fenfe, in this manner : He fup- 
pofes a dark fubterraneous cave, in which men 
lie bound in fuch a manner, that they can di- 
rect their eyes only to one part of the cave : 
Far behind, there is a light, fome rays of which 
come over a wall to that part of the cave which 

I76 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 7, 

is before the eyes of our prifoners. A number 
of perfons, variouily employed, pafs between 
them and the light, whofe fhadows are feen by 
the prifoners, but not the perfons themfelves. 

In this manner, that Philofopher conceived, 
that, by our fenfes, we perceive the ftiadows of 
things only, and not things themfelves. He 
feems to have borrowed his notions on this fub- 
jecl from the Pythagoreans, and they very pro- 
bably from Pythagoras himfelf. If we make 
allowance for Plato's allegorical genius, his 
fentiments on this fubject correfpond very well 
with thofe of his fcholar Aristotle, and of the 
Peripatetics. The fhadows of Plato may very 
well reprefent the fpecies and phantafms of the 
Peripatetic fchool, and the ideas and impreffions 
of modern Philofophers. 

Two thoufand years after Plato, Mr Locke, 
who ft u died the operations of the human mind 
fo much, and with fo great fuccefs, reprefents our 
manner of perceiving external objects, by a limi- 
litude very much refembling that of the cave. 
" Methinks, fays he, the underftanding is not 
*' much unlike a clofet wholly fiiut from light, 
" with only fome little opening left, to let in 
" external vifible refemblances or ideas of things 
" without. Would the pictures coming into 
" fuch a dark room but ftay there, and lie fo 
" orderly as to be found upon occafion, it would 
" very much refemble the underftanding of a 

M man, 


4t man, in reference to all objects of fight, and 
" the ideas of them." 

Plato's fubterranean cave, and Mr Locke's 
dark clofet, may be applied with eafe to all the 
fyitems of perception that have been invented : 
For they all fuppofe that we perceive not exter- 
nal objects immediately, and that the immediate 
-objects of perception are only certain ihadows of 
the external objects Thofe fhadows or images, 
which we immediately perceive, were by the 
ancients called /pedes, forms, phantafms. Since 
the time of Des Cartes, they have commonly 
been called ideas, and by Mr Hume imprejfions. 
But all Philofophers, from Plato to Mr Hume, 
agree in this, That we do not perceive external 
objects immediately, and that the immediate ob- 
ject of perception mult be fome image prefent to 
the mind. So far there appears an unanimity, 
rarely to be found among Philofophers on fuch 
abftrufe points. 

If it fhould be alked, Whether, according to 
the opinion of Philofophers, we perceive the 
images or ideas only, and infer the existence and 
qualities of the external object from what we 
perceive in the image ? Or, whether we really 
perceive the external object as well as its image? 
The anfwer to this queftion is not quite obvious. 

On the one hand, Philofophers, if we except 
Berkeley and Hume, believe the exiftence of 
external objects of fenfe, and call them objects of 

Vol. I M perception, 

17S ESSAY II. [chap. 7. 

perception, though not immediate objects. But 
what they mean by a mediate object of perception 
I do not find clearly explained ; whether they fuit 
their language to popular opinion, and mean that 
we perceive external objects in that figurative 
fenfe, in which we fay that we perceive an abfent 
friend when we look on his picture ; or whether 
they mean, that really, and without a figure, 
we perceive both the external object and its idea 
in the mind. If the laft be their meaning, it 
would follow, that, in every inftance of percep- 
tion, there is a double object perceived : That I 
perceive, for inftance, one fun in the heavens, 
and another in my own mind. But I do not find 
that they affirm this ; and as it contradicts the 
experience of all mankind, I will not impute it 
to them. 

It feems, therefore, that their opinion is, That 
we do not really perceive the external object, but 
the internal only ; and that when they fpeak of 
perceiving external objects, they mean it only 
in a popular or in a figurative fenfe, as above ex- 
plained. Several reafons "lead me to think this 
to be the opinion of Philofophers, befide what is 
mentioned above. Fir/I, If we do really per- 
ceive the external object itfelf, there feems to be 
no neceflity, no ufe, for an image of it. Second- 
ly, Since the time of Des Cartes, Philofophers 
have very generally thought that the exiftence 



of external objects of fenfe requires proof, and 
can only be proved from the exiftence of their 
ideas. Thirdly, The way in which Philofophers 
fpeak of ideas, feems to imply that they are the 
only objects of perception. 

Having endeavoured to explain what is com- 
mon to Philofophers in accounting for our per- 
ception of external objects, we fhall give fome 
detail of their differences. 

The ideas by which we perceive external ob- 
jects, are faid by fome to be the ideas of the 
Deity ; but it has been more generally thought, 
that every man's ideas are proper to himfelf, and 
are either in his mind, or in his ft nj or ium, where 
the mind is immediately prefent. The j£r/? is 
the theory of Malebranche ; the Jecond we 
fhall call the common theory. 

With regard to that of Malebranche, it 
feems to have fome affinity with the Platonic no- 
tion of ideas, but is not the fame. Plato be- 
lieved that there are three eternal firft principles, 
from which all things have their origin ; matter, 
ideas, and an efficient caufe. Matter is that of 
which all things are made, which, "by all the 
ancient Philofophers, was conceived to be eter- 
nal. Ideas are forms without matter of every 
kind of things which can exift ; which forms 
were alfo conceived by Plato to be eternal and 
immutable, and to be the models or patterns by 
which the efficient caufe, that is the Deity, form- 
M 2 ed 

l80 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 7. 

ed every part of this Univerfe. Thefe ideas 
were conceived to be the fole objects of fcience, 
and indeed of all true knowledge. While we 
are imprifoned in the body, we are prone to give 
attention to the objects of fenfe only ; but thefe 
being individual things, and in a conftant fluc- 
tuation, being indeed lhadows rather than reali- 
ties, cannot be the object of real knowledge. 
All fcience is employed, not about individual 
things, but about things univerfal and abftract 
from matter. Truth is eternal and immutable, 
and therefore mull have for its object eternal and 
immutable ideas ; thefe we are capable of con- 
templating in fome degree even in our prefent 
ftate, but not without a certain purification of 
mind, and abitraction from the objects of fenfe. 
Such, as far as I am able to comprehend, were 
the fublime notions of Plato, and probably of 

The Philofophers of the Alexandrian fchool, 
commonly called the latter Platonifts, feem to 
have adopted the fame iyltem ; but with this 
difference, that they made the eternal ideas not 
to be a principle diftinct from the' Deity, but to 
be in the divine intellect, as the objects of thofe 
conceptions which the divine mind muft from all 
eternity have had, not only of every thing which 
he has made, but of every poffible exiftence, 
and of all the relations of things : By a proper 
purification and abftraction from the objects of 
fenfe, we may be in fome meafure united to the 



Deity, and in the eternal light be enabled to 
difcern the moft fublime intellectual truths. 

Thefe Platonic notions, grafted upon Chriftia- 
nity, probably gave rife to the feci called Myf-> 
tics, which, though in its fpirit and principles 
extremely oppofite to the Peripatetic, yet was 
never extinguifhed, but fubiifts to this d y. 

Many of the Fathers of the Chriftian church 
have a tincture of the tenets of the Alexandrian 
fchool ; among others St Augustine. But it. 
does not appear, as far as I know, that either 
Plato, or the latter Platonifts, or St Augustine, 
or the Myftics, thought that we perceive the 
objects of fenfe in the divine ideas. They had 
too mean a notion of our perception of feniible 
objects to afcribe to it fo high an origin. This 
theory, therefore, of . our perceiving the objects 
of fenfe in the ideas of the Deity, 1 take to be 
the invention of Father Malebkanche himfeif. 
He indeed brings many paffages of St Augus- 
tine to countenance it, and feems very deiirous 
to have that Father of his party. But in thofe 
paffages, though the Father fpeaks in a very high 
ftrain of God's being the light of our minds, of 
our being illuminated immediately by the eter- 
nal light, and ufes other fimilar expreffions j yet 
he feems to apply thofe expreflions only to our 
illumination in moral and divine things, and not 
to the perception of objects by the fenfes. Mr 
Bayle imagines that fome traces of this opinion' 
of Malebkanche are to be found in Amelius 
M 3 the 

l82 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 7. 

the Platoniit, and even in Democritus ; but his 
authorities ieem to be ftrained. 

Malebranche, with a very penetrating ge- 
nius, entered into a more minute examination 
of the powers of the human mind than any one 
before him. He had the advantage of the difco- 
series made by Des Cartes, whom he followed 
without flavifh attachment. 

He lays it down as a principle admitted by all- 
Philofophers, and which could not be called in 
queftion, that we do not perceive external ob- 
jects immediately, but by means of images or 
ideas of them prefent to the mind. " I fuppofe r 
" fays he, that every one will grant that we per- 
" ceive not the objects that are without us im- 
" mediately, and of themfelves. We fee the 
" fun, the liars, and an infinity of objects with- 
" out us ; and it is not at all likely that the 
" foul fallies out of the body, and, as it were, 
" take a walk through the heavens to contem- 
" plate all thofe objects : She fees them not, 
" therefore, by themfelves ; and the immediate 
" object of the mind, when it fees the fun, for 
" example, is not the fun, but fomething which 
" is intimately united to "he foul ; and it is that 
" which I call an idea : So that by the word 
idea, I underftand nothing elfe here but that 
which is the immediate object, or neareft to 
the mind, when we perceive any object. It 
ought to be carefully obferved, that, in order 

" to 




' to the mind's perceiving any object, it is ab- 
' foiutely neceffary that the idea of that object 
' be actually prefent to it. Of this it is not pof- 
' lible to doubt. The things wh'ch the foul 
5 perceives are of two kinds. They are either 
' in the foul, or they are without the foul : 
' Thofe that are in the foul are its own thoughts, 
' that is to fay, ail its different modifications. 
' The foul has no need of ideas for perceiving 
1 thefe things. But with regard to things with- 
' out the foul, we cannot perceive them but by 
( means of ideas." 

Having laid this foundation, as a principle 
which was common to all Philofophers, and 
which admitted of no doubt, he proceeds to enu- 
merate all the poflible ways by which the ideas 
of fenfible objects may be prefented to the mind: 
Either, firfl, they come from the bodies which 
we perceive ; or, fecmdly, the foul has the power 
of producing them in itfelf; or, thirdly > they 
are produced by the Deity, either in our crea- 
tion, or occafionally as there is ufe for them \ or, 
fourthly, the foul has in itfelf virtually and emi- 
nently, as the fchools fpeak, all the perfections, 
which it perceives in bodies \ or, fifthly, the foul 
is united with a being poifeffed of all perfection, 
who has in himfelf the ideas of all created things. 
This he takes to be a complete enumeration 
of all the poflible ways in which the ideas of ex- 
ternal objects may be prefented to our minds : 
M 4 He 

I £4 IS SAY II. [CHAP. 7. 

He employs a whole chapter upon each ; refu- 
ting the four firft, and confirming the laft by va- 
rious arguments. The Deity, "being always pre- 
fent to our minds in a more intimate manner 
than any other being, may, upon occafion of the 
impreflions made on our bodies, difcover to us, 
as far as he thinks proper, and according to fix- 
ed laws, his own ideas of the object ; and thus 
we fee all things in God, or in the divine ideas. 

However vilionary this fyftem may appear on 
a fuperficial view, yet when we confider, that 
he agreed with the whole tribe of Philofophers 
in conceiving ideas to be the immediate objects 
of perception, and that he found infuperable 
difficulties, and even abfurdities, in every other 
hypothefis concerning them, it will not appear 
fo wonderful that a man of very great genius 
fhould fall into this ; and probably it pleafed fo 
devout a man the more, that it fets, in the moft 
ftriking light, our dependence upon God, and 
his continual prefence with us. 

He diftinguifhed, more accurately than any 
Philofopher had done before, the objects which 
we perceive from the feniations in our own 
minds, which, by the laws of Nature, always ac- 
company the perception of the object. As in 
many things, fo particularly in this, he has great 
merit : For this, I apprehend, is a key that o- 
pens the way to a right underflanding both 
of our external fenfes, and of other powers of 



the mind. The vulgar confound fenfation with 
other powers of the mind, and with their ob- 
jects, becaufe the purpofes of life do not make a 
diftinction neceffary. The confounding of thefe 
in common language has led Philofophers, in one 
period, to make thofe things external which 
really are fenfations in our own minds ; and, in 
another period, running, as is ufual, into the con- 
trary extreme, to make almoft every thing to be. 
a fenfation or feeling in our minds. 

It is obvious, that the fyflem of Malebranche 
leaves no evidence of the exiilence of a material 
world, from what we perceive by our fenfes ; 
for the divine ideas, which are the objects im- 
mediately perceived, were the fame before the 
world was created. Malebranche was too a- 
cute not to difcern this confequence of his fy- 
flem, and too candid not to acknowledge it : He 
fairly owns it, and endeavours to make advan- 
tage of it, refting the complete evidence we have, 
of the exiilence of matter upon the authority of 
revelation : He ihews, that the argument- 
brought by Des Cartes to prove the exiilence 
of a material world, though as good as any that 
reafon could furnifh, are not perfectly concla- 
live ; and though he acknowledges, with De< 
Cartes, that we feel a flrong propeniity to be- 
lieve the exiilence of a material world, yet he 
thinks this is not fufficient ; and that to yield 
to fuch propenlities without evidence, is to 


iS6 £$SAY ni [chap. 7. 

expofe ourfelves to perpetual delufion. He 
thinks, therefore, that the only convincing evi- 
dence we have of the exiftence of a material 
world is, that we are aflured by revelation that 
God created the heavens and the earth, and that 
the Word was made fleih : He is feniible of the 
ridicule to which fo ftrange an opinion may ex- 
pofe him among thofe who are guided by pre- 
judice ; but, for the fake of truth, he is willing 
to bear it. But no author, not even Bifhop 
Berkely, hath ihown more clearly, that, either 
upon his own fyftem, or upon the common prin- 
ciples of Philofophers with regard to ideas, we 
have no evidence left, either from reafon or from 
our fenfes, of the exiftence of a material world. 
It is no more than juftice to Father Male- 
branche to acknowledge, that Bifhop Berke- 
ley's arguments are to be found in him in their 
whole force. 

Mr Norris, an Englifh divine, efpoufed the 
fyftem of Malebranche, in his Effay towards 
the Theory of the Ideal or Intellectual World, 
publifhed in two volumes Svo, anno 1701. This 
author has made a feeble effort to fupply a defect 
which is to be found not in Malebranche only, 
but in almoft all the authors who have treated 
of ideas ; I mean, to prove their exiftence. He 
has employed a whole chapter to prove, that 
material things cannot be an immediate object 
of perception. His arguments are thefe: ifl 9 



They are without the mind, and therefore, there 
can be no union between the object and the per- 
cipient. idly y They are difproportioned to the 
mind, and removed from it by the whole dia- 
meter of being, yily, Becaufe, if material ob- 
jects were immediate objects of perception, there 
could be no phyiical fcience ; things neceffary 
and immutable being the only objects of fcience. 
4tbly, If material things were perceived by them- 
felves, they would be a true light to our minds, 
as being the intelligible form of our underitand- 
ings, and confequently perfective of them, and 
indeed fuperior to them. 

Maleb ran c he's fyftem was adopted by ma- 
ny devout people in France of both fexes ; but 
it feems to have had no great currency in other 
countries. Mr Locke wrote a fmall tract a- 
gainft it, which is found among his pofthu- 
mous works : But whether it was written in 
hade, or after the vigour of his underftanding 
was impaired by age, there is lefs of ftrength 
and folidity in it, than in moft of his writings. 
The molt formidable antagonift Malebranche 
met with was in his own country; Antony Ar- 
nauld, doctor of the Sorbonne, and one of the 
acuteft writers the Janfenifts have to boaft of, 
though that feci: has produced many. Thofe 
who choofr to fee this fyftem, attacked on the 
one hand, and defended on the other, with fub- 
lilty of argument, and elegance of expreftion, 


1 88 ESSAY* II. [chap. f. 

and on the part of Arnauld with much wit 

and humour, may find fatisfaction by reading 
Malebranche's Inquiry after Truth ; Ar- 
nauld's book of True and Falfe Ideas; Male- 
branche's Defence ; and fome fubfequent re- 
plies and defences. In controverries of this 
kind, the arTailant commonly has the advantage, 
if they are not unequally matched ; for it is 
eafier to overturn all the theories of Philofophers 
upon this fubject, than to defend any one of 
them. Mr Bayle makes a very juft remark 
upon this controverfy, that the arguments of Mr 
Arnauld againft the fyftem of Malebranche 
were often unanfwerable, but they were capable 
of being retorted againft his own fyftem ; and 
his ingenious antagonift knew well how to ufe 
this defence. 


Of the common Theory of Perception, and of the 
Sentiments of the Peripatetics, and of Des 


THIS theory in general is, that we perceive 
external objects only by certain images 
which are in our minds, or in the fenforium to 
which the mind is immediately prefent. Philo- 
fophers, in different ages, have differed both in' 



the names they have given to thofe images, and 
in their notions concerning them. It would be 
a laborious talk to enumerate all their variations, 
and perhaps would not requite the labour. I 
mall only give a fketch of the principal diffe- 
rences with regard to their names and their na- 

By Aristotle and the Peripatetics, the ima- 
ges prefented to our fenfes were called /enfible 
/pedes or forms ; thofe prefented to the memory 
or imagination were called phantafms ; and thofe 
prefented to the intellect were calied intelligible 
/pedes ; and they thought, that there can be no 
perception, no imagination, no intellection, with- 
out fpecies or phantafms. What the ancient 
Philofophers called fpecies, fenlible and intelli- 
gible, and phantafms, in later times, and ef- 
pecially fince the time of Des Cartes, came to 
be called by the common name of ideas. The 
Cartelians divided our ideas into three claiTes, 
thofe of /en/ation, of imagination, and of pure 
intellection. Of the objects of fenfation and ima- 
gination, they thought the images are in the 
brain, but of objects that are incorporeal, the 
images are in the underftanding, or pure intel- 

Mr Locke, taking the word idea in the fame 
icnfe as Des Cartes had done before him, to 
ngnify whatever is meant by phantafm, notion 
or fpecies, divides ideas into thofe of fenfatiori, 


190 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 8, 

and thofe of refleElion ; meaning by the firft, the 
ideas of all corporeal objects, whether perceived, 
remembered, or imagined ; by the fecond, the 
ideas of the powers and operations of our minds. 
What Mr Locke calls ideas, Mr Hume divides 
into two diftinct kinds, imprejfions and ideas. 
The difference betwixt thefe, he fays, confifts in 
the degrees of force and livelinefs with which 
they ftrike upon the mind. Under imprejfions 
he comprehends all our fenfations, paffions and 
emotions, as they make their firft appearance in 
the foul. By ideas he means the faint images 
of thefe in thinking and reafoning. 

Dr Hartley gives the fame meaning to ideas 
as Mr Hume does, and what Mr Hume calls 
imprefiions he calls fenfations ; conceiving our 
fenfations to be occafioned by vibrations of the 
infinitefimal particles of the brain, and ideas by 
miniature vibrations, or vibratiuncles. Such 
differences we find among Fhilofophers, with 
regard to the name of thofe internal images of 
objects of fenfe, which they hold to be the im- 
mediate objects of perception. 

We mail next give a fhort detail of the fen- 
timents of the Peripatetics and Cartefians, of 
Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, concerning them. 
Aristotle feems to have thought that the 
foul confifts of two parts, or, rather, that we have 
two fouls, the animal and the rational ; or, as 
he calls them, the foul and the intellect. To 
thejitft, belong the fenfes, memory, and imagi- 
nation ; 


nation ; to the laft, judgment opinion, belief, 
and reafoning. The firft we have in common 
with brute animals ; the laft is peculiar to man. 
The animal foul he held to be a certain form 
of the body, which is infeparable from it, and 
perifhes at death. To this foul the fenfes be- 
long : And he defines a fenfe to be that which 
is capable of receiving the fenfible forms, or fpe- 
cies of objects, without any of the matter of 
them ; as wax receives the form of the feal 
without any of the matter of it. The forms of 
found, of colour, of tafle, and of other fenfible 
qualities, are in like manner received by the 

It feems to be a neceflary confequence of 
Aristotle's doctrine, that bodies are confcant- 
ly fending forth, in all directions, as many dif- 
ferent kinds of forms without matter as they 
have different fenfible qualities ; for the forms 
of colour mufl enter by the eye, the forms of 
found by the ear, and fo of the other fenfes. 
This accordingly was maintained by the follow- 
ers of Aristotle, though, not as far as I know, 
exprefsly mentioned by himfelf. They difpu- 
ted concerning the nature of thofe forms, or fpe- 
cies, whether they were real beings or non-en- 
tities ; and fome held them to be of an inter- 
mediate nature between the two. The whole 
doctrine of the Peripatetics and fchoolmen con- 
cerning forms, fubftantial and accidental, and 


I9 2 ESSAY II. [chap. 8. 

concerning the tranfmifiion of fenfible fpecies 
from objects of fenfe to the mind, if it be at all 
intelligible, is fo far above my comprehenfion, 
that I fhould perhaps do it injuftice, by enter- 
ing into it more minutely. Malebranhce, in 
his Recherche de la Verite, has employed a chap- 
ter to ihew, that material objects do not fend 
forth fenfible fpecies of their feveral fenfible 

The great revolution which Des Cartes pro- 
duced in philofophy, was the effect of a fuperio- 
rity of genius, aided by the circumftances of the 
times. Men had, for more than a thoufand years, 
looked up to Aristotle as an oracle in philo- 
fophy. His authority was the teft of truth. The 
fmall remains of the Platonic fyftem were confi- 
ned to a few Myftics,whofe principles and manner 
of life drew little attention. The feeble attempts 
of Ramus, and of fome others, to make improve- 
ments in the fyftem, had little effect. The Peripa- 
tetic doctrines were fo interwoven with the whole 
fyilem of fcholaftic theology, that to diffent from 
Aristotle was to alarm the Church. The 
moll ufeful and intelligible parts, even of Aris- 
totle's writings, were neglected, and philofo- 
phy was become an art of fpeaking learnedly, 
and difputing fubtilely, without producing any 
invention of ufe in human life. It was fruitful 
of words, but barren of works, and admirably 
contrived for drawing a veil over human igno- 


ranee, and putting a flop to the progrefs of 
knowledge, by filling men with a conceit that 
they knew every thing. It was very fruitful 
alio in controversies ; but for the moil part they 
were controversies about words, or about things 
of no moment, or things above the reach of the 
human faculties : And the iiTue of them was 
what might be expected, that the contending 
parties fought, without gaining or lofing an inch 
of ground, till they were weary of the difpute, 
or their attention was called off to fome other 

Such was the philofophy of the fchools of 
Europe, during many ages of darknefs and 
barbarifm that fucceeded the decline of the rto- 
man empire ; fo that there was great need of 
a reformation in philofophy as well as in religion. 
The light began to dawn at laft ; a fpirit of in* 
quiry fprang up, and men got the courage to 
doubt of the dogmas of Aristotle, as well 
as of the decrees of Popes. The moll impor- 
tant ft ep in the reformation of religion was to 
deftroy the claim of infallibility, which hinder- 
ed men from ufing their judgment in matters 
of religion : And the mod important ftep in the 
reformation of philofophy was to deftroy the 
authority, of which Aristotle had fo long 
had peaceable pofTeffion. The laft had been 
attempted by Lord Bacon and others, with 

Vol. I. N no 

194 ESSAY II. [CHAP.fc. 

no lefs zeal than the firft by Luther and 

Des Cartes knew well the defeats of the 
prevailing fyftem, which had begun to lofe its 
authority. His genius enabled him, and his 
fpirit prompted him, to attempt a new one. He 
had applied much to the mathematical fciences, 
and had made confiderable improvement in 
them. He wifhed to introduce that perfpecuity 
and evidence into other branches of philofophy 
which he found in them. 

Being fenfible how apt we are to be led aflray 
by prejudices of education, he thought the only 
way to avoid error, was, to refolve to doubt of 
every thing, and hold every thing to be uncer- 
' tain ; even thofe things which he had been 
taught to hold as moll certain, until he had 
fuch clear and cogent evidence as compelled his 

In this ftate of univerfal doubt, that which 
firft appeared to him to be clear and certain, was 
his own exiftence. Of this he was certain, be- 
caufe he was confcious that he thought, that he 
reafoned, and that he doubted. He ufed this 
argument, therefore, to prove his own exiftence, 
Cogito, ergo Jum. This he conceived to be the 
firft of all truths, the foundation-Hone upon 
which, the whole fabric of human knowledge is 
built, and on which it muft reft. And as Ar- 
chimedes thought, that if he had one fixed 



point to reft his engines upon, he could move 
the earth ; io Des Cartes, charmed with the 
difcovery of one certain principle, by which he 
emerged from the date of univerfal doubt, be- 
lieved that this principle alone would be a fuf. 
licient foundation on which he might build the 
whole fyftem of fcience. He feems therefore to 
have taken no great trouble to examine whether 
there might not be other firft principles, which, 
on account of their own light and evidence, 
ought to be admitted by every man of found 
judgment. The love of fimplicity, fo natural 
to the mind of man, led him to apply the whole 
force of his mind to raife the fabric of know- 
ledge upon this one principle, rather than feek 
a broader foundation. 

Accordingly, he does not admit the evidence 
of fenfe to be a firft principle, as he does that 
of confcioufnefs. The arguments of the ancient 
fceptics here occurred to him ; that our fenfes 
often deceive us, and therefore ought never to 
be trufted on their own authority ; that, in 
fleep, we often feem to fee and hear things 
which we are convinced to have had no exift- 
ence. But that which chiefly led Des Cartes 
to think that he ought not to truft to his fenfes 
without proof of their veracity, was, that he 
took it for granted, as all Philofophers had done 
before him, that he did not perceive external 
objects themfelves, but certain images of them 
N 2 in 

I96 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 8r. 

ill his own mind, called ideas. He was certain, 
,by confcioufnefs, that he had the ideas of fun 
and moon, earth and fea ; but how could he be 
affured that there really exifted external objects 
like to thefe ideas ? 

Hitherto he was uncertain of every thing but 
of his own exiflence, and the exiflence of the 
operations and ideas of his own mind. Some 
of his difciples, it is faid, remained at this ftage 
of his fyftem, and got the name of Egoifts. 
They could not find evidence in the fubfequent 
ftages of his progrefs. But Des Cartes refol- 
ved not to flop here ; he endeavoured to prove^ 
by a new argument, drawn from his idea of a 
Deity, the exiflence of an infinitely perfect Be- 
ing, who made him, and all his faculties. From 
the perfection of this Being, he inferred that he 
could be no deceiver ; and therefore concluded, 
that his fenfes, and the other faculties he found 
in himfelf, are not fallacious, but may be truft- 
ed, when a proper ufe is made of them. 

The fyftem of Des Cartes is, with great per- 
fpicuity and acutenefs, explained by himfelf in 
his writings, which ought to be confulted by 
thofe who would underftand it. 

The merit of Des Cartes cannot be ealily 
conceived by thofe who have not fome notion 
of the Peripatetic fyftem, in which he was edu- 
cated. To throw off the prejudices of educa- 
tion, and to create a fyftem of nature, totally 



different from that which had fubdued the un- 
derflanding of mankind, and kept it in fubjec- 
tion for fo many centuries, required an uncom- 
mon force of mind. 

The world which Des Cartes exhibits to 
our view, is not only in its ftrucr.ure very differ- 
ent from that of the Peripatetics, but is, as we 
may fay, compofed of dUfferent materials. 

In the old fyftem, every thing was, by a kind 
of metaphyseal fublimation, refolved into prin- 
ciples fo myflerious, that it may be a queftion, 
whether they were words without meaning, or 
were notions too refined for human underftand- 

All that we obferve in nature, is, according 
to Aristotle, a conftant fucceffion of the ope- 
rations of generation and corruption. The prin- 
ciples of generation are matter and form. The 
principle of corruption is privation. All natu- 
ral things are produced or generated by the 
union of matter and form ; matter being, as it 
were, the mother, and form the father. As to 
matter, or the firft matter, as it is called, it is 
neither fubflance nor accident ; it has no qua- 
lity or property ; it is nothing actually, but eve- 
ry thing potentially. It has fo ftrong an appe- 
tite for form, that it is no fooner divefled of one 
form, than it is clothed with another, and is 
equally fufceptible of all forms fucceflively. It 
N 3 ha*, 

/9& ESSAY II. [chap. 8* 

has no nature, but only the capacity of having 
any one. 

This is the account which the Peripatetics 
give of the firft matter. The other principle of 
generation is form, aEl y perfe Elian ; for thefe 
three words fignify the fame thing. But we 
mull not conceive form to confift in the figure, 
fize, arrangement, or motion, of the parts of 
matter. Thefe, indeed, are accidental forms, 
by which things artificial are formed : But eve- 
ry production of Nature has a fubftantial form, 
which, joined to matter, makes it to be what it 
is. The fubftantial form is a kind of informing 
foul, which gives the thing its fpecific nature, 
and all its qualities, powers, and activity. Thus 
the fubftantial form of heavy bodies, is that 
which makes them defcend ; of light bodies, 
that which makes them afcend. The fubftantial 
form of gold, is that which gives it its dudlili- 
ty, its fufibility, its weight, its colour, and all 
its qualities ; and the fame is to be underftood 
of every natural production. A change in the 
accidental form of any body, is alteration only ; 
but a change in the fubftantial form, is genera- 
tion and corruption : It is corruption with re- 
fpedt. to the fubftantial form of which the body 
is deprived : It is generation with refpecl to the 
fubftantial form that fucceeds. Thus, when a 
jiorfe dies and turns to duft, the philofophical 
account of the phenomenon is this : A certain 



portion of the materia prima, which was joined 
to the fubftantial form of a horfe, is deprived of 
it by privation, and in the fame inflant is invert- 
ed with the fubftantial form of earth. As every 
fubftance muft have a fubftantial form, there are 
fome of thofe forms inanimate, fome vegetative, 
fome animal, and fome rational. The three for- 
mer kinds can only fubfift in matter ; but the 
laft, according to the fchoolmen, is immediately 
created by God, and infufed into the body, ma- 
king one fubftance with it, while they are uni- 
ted ; yet capable of being disjoined from the 
body, and of fubfifting by itfelf. 

Such are the principles of natural things in 
the Peripatetic fyftem. It retains fo much of 
the ancient Pythagorean doctrine, that we can- 
not afcribe the invention of it folely to Aristo- 
tle, although he no doubt made conliderable 
alterations in it. The firft matter was probably 
the fame in both fyftems, and was in both held 
to be eternal. They differed more about form. 
The Pythagoreans and Platonifts held forms, or 
ideas, as they called them, to be eternal, immu- 
table, and felf-exiftent. Aristotle maintain- 
ed, that they were not eternal, nor felf-exiftent. 
On the other hand, he did not allow them to be 
produced, but educed from matter ; yet he held 
them not to be actually in the matter from 
which they are educed, but potentially only. 
But thefe two; fyftems differed lefs from one 
N 4 another ? 

20O ESS AT II. '[CHAP. 8. 

another^ than that of Des Carte* did from 

In the world of Des Cartes, we meet with 
two kinds of beings only, to wit, body and 
mind j the nrft the object, of our fenfes, the 
other of confcioufnefs ; both of them things of 
which We haVe a diftinct. appreheniion, if the 
huinan mind be capable of diftinct appreheniion 
at all, To the nrft, no qualities are afcribed 
but extenfion, figure, and motion ; to the laft, 
nothing but thought, and its various modifica- 
tions, of which We are confcious. He could ob- 
ferve no common attribute, no refembling fea- 
ture in the attributes of body and mind, and 
therefore concluded them to be diftinct fubftan- 
ces, and totally of a different nature ; and that 
body, from its very nature, is inanimate and in- 
ert, incapable of any kind of thought of fenfa- 
tion, or of producing any Change or alteration 
in itfelf. 

Des Cartes muft be allowed the honour of 
being the fiflt who drew a diftinct line between 
the material and intellectual world, which* ift 
all the old fyftems, were fo blended together, 
that it was impofiible to fay where the one ends 
and the other begins. How much this diftinc- 
tion hath contributed to the improvements of 
modern times, in the philofophy both of bod^ 
and q^ mind, is not eafy to fay. 



One obvious coiifequence of this diftinction 
was, that accurate reflection on the operations 
of our own mind, is the only way to make 
any progrefs in the knowledge of it. Male- 
bramche, Locke, Berkeley, and Hume, were 
taught this leifon by Des Cartes \ and to it we 
owe their mod valuable difcoveries in this branch 
of philofophy. The analogical way of reafon- 
ing concerning the powers of the mind from 
the properties of body, which is the fource of 
almoft all the errors on this fubjecl, and which 
is fo natural to the bulk of mankind, was as 
contrary to the principles of Des Cartes, as it 
was agreeable to the principles of the old phi- 
lofophy. We may therefore truly fay, that, in 
that part of philofophy which relates to the 
mind, Des Cartes laid the foundation, and put 
us into that track, which all wife men now ac- 
knowledge to be the only one in which we can 
expect fuccefs. 

With regard to phyfics, or the philofophy of 
body, if Des Cartes had not the merit of lead- 
ing men into the right tract, we muft allow him 
that of bringing them out of a wrong one. The 
Peripatetics, by affigning to every fpecies of bo- 
dy a particular fubftantial form, which produces, 
in an unknown manner, all tlie effects we ob- 
ferve in it, put a flop to all improvement in this 
branch of philofophy. Gravity and levity, flui- 
dity and hardnefs, heat and cold, were qualities 


202 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 8. 

arifing from the fubftantial form of the bodies 
to which they belonged. Generation and cor- 
ruption, fubftantial forms, and occult qualities, 
were always at hand, to refolve every phaenome- 
non. This philofophy, therefore, inftead of ac- 
counting for any of the phaenomena of Nature, 
contrived only to give learned names to their 
unknown caufes, and fed men with the hulks of 
barbarous terms, inftead of the fruit of real 

By the fpreading of the Cartefian fyftem, 
materia prima s fubftantial forms, and occult 
qualities, with all the jargon of the Ariftotelian 
phyfics, fell into utter dilgrace, and were never 
mentioned by the followers of the new fyftem, 
but as a fubjecl: of ridicule. Men became fen- 
fible that their underftanding had been hood- 
winked by thofe hard terms. They were now 
accuftomed to explain the phaenomena of Na- 
ture, by the figure, iize, and motion of the par- 
ticles of matter, things perfectly level to human 
underftanding, and could relifh nothing in phi- 
lofophy that was dark and unintelligible. Aris- 
totle, after a reign of more than a thoufand 
years, was now expofed as an object of derifion 
even to the vulgar, arrayed in the mock majefty 
of his fubftantial forms and occult qualities. 
The Ladies became fond of a philofophy which 
was ealily learned, and required no words too 
harfh for their delicate organs. Queens and 

Princefies f 


Princefies, the molt diftinguifhed perfonages of 
the age, courted the converfation of Des Car- 
tes, and became adepts in his philofophy. Wit- 
nefs Christina Queen of Sweden, and Elisa- 
beth, daughter of Frederick King of Bohe- 
mia, and filler to Sophia the mother of our 
Royal Family. The laft, though very young 
when Des Cartes wrote his Principia, he de- 
clares to be the only perfon he knew, who per- 
fectly understood not only all his philofophical 
writings, but the moft abftrufe of his mathema- 
tical works. 

That men mould rufh with violence from one 
extreme, without going more or lefs into the 
contrary extreme, is not to be expected from 
the weaknefs of human nature. Des Cartes 
and his followers were not exempted from this 
weaknefs ; they thought that extenfion, figure, 
and motion, were fufficient to refolve all the 
phaenomena of the material fyftem. To admit 
other qualities, whofe caufe is unknown, was to 
return to Egypt, from which they had been fo 
happily delivered. 

When Sir Isaac Newton's doctrine of Gra- 
vitation was publifhed, the great objection to it, 
which hindered its general reception in Europe 
for half a century, was, that gravitation feemed 
to be an occult quality, as it could not be ac- 
counted for by extenfion, figure, and motion, 
the known attributes of body. They who de- 

204 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 8. 

fended him, found it difficult to anfwer this ob- 
jection, to the fatisfaction of thofe who had 
been initiated in the principles of the Cartefian 
fyftem. But, by degrees, men came to be fen- 
iible, that, in revoking from Aristotle, the 
Cartefians had gone into the oppofite extreme ; 
experience convinced them, that there are qua- 
lities in the material world, whofe exifience is 
certain, though their cauie be occult. To ac- 
knowledge this, is only a candid confeffion of 
human ignorance, than which there is nothing 
more becoming a Philofopher. 

As all that we can know of the mind muft be 
derived from a careful obfervation of its opera- 
tions in ourfelves ; fo all that we can know of 
the material fyftem mult be derived from what 
can be difcovered by our fenfes. Des Cartes 
was not ignorant of this ; nor was his fyftem fo 
unfriendly to obfervation and experiment as the 
old fyftem was. He made many experiments, 
and called earneftly upon all lovers of truth to 
aid him in this way. But, believing that all 
the phenomena of the material world are the 
remit of extenlion, figure, and motion, and that 
the Deity always combines thefe, fo as to pro- 
duce the phenomena in the iimpleft manner 
pofhble, he thought, that, from a few experi- 
ments, he might be able to difcover the iimpleft 
way, in which the obvious phenomena of Na- 
ture can be produced, by matter and motion 



only ; and that this muft be the way in which 
they are actually produced. His conjectures 
were ingenious, upon the principles he had ad- 
opted : But they are found to be fo far from 
the truth, that they ought for ever to difcourage 
Philofophers from trulting to conjecture in the 
operations of Nature. 

The vortices or whirlpools of fubtile matter, 
by which Des Cartes endeavoured to account 
for the phaenomena of the material world, are 
now found to be fictions, no lefs than the fenfi- 
ble fpecies of Aristotle. 

It was referved for Sir Isaac Newton to 
point out clearly the road to the knowledge of 
Nature's works. Taught by Lord Bacon to 
defpife hypothefes as the fictions of human fan- 
cy, he laid it down as a rule of philofophiling, 
that no caufes of natural things ought to be af- 
ligned but fuch as can be proved to have a real 
exiftence. He faw, that all the length men can 
go in accounting for phaenomena, is to difcover 
the laws of Nature, according to which they 
are produced ; and therefore, that the true me- 
thod of philofophifing is this : From real fuels 
afcertained by obfervation and experiment, to 
coiled: by juft induction the laws of Nature, 
and to apply the laws fo difcovered, to account 
for the phaenomena of Nature. 

Thus the natural Philofopher has the rules of 
his art fixed with no lefs precifion than the Ma- 

206 ESSAY II., [CHAP. 8, 

thematician, and may be no lefs certain when 
he keeps within them, and when he deviates 
from them : And though the evidence of a law 
of nature from induction is not demonftrative, 
it is the only kind of evidence on which all the 
moft important affairs of human life mult reft. 

Purfuing this road without deviation, New- 
ton difcovered the laws of our planetary fyf- 
tem, and of the rays of light ; and gave the 
firft and the nobleft examples of that chafte in- 
duction, which Lord Bacon could only deli- 
neate in theory. 

How ftrange is it, that the human mind .mould 
have wandered for fo many ages, without fall- 
ing into this tract ! How much more ftrange, 
that after it has been clearly difcovered, and a 
happy progrefs made in it, many choofe rather 
to wander in the fairy regions of hypothefis ! 

To return to Des Cartes's notions of the 
manner of our perceiving external objects, from 
which a concern to do juftice to the merits of 
that great reformer in philofophy has led me to 
degrefs, he took it for granted, as the old Phi- 
lofophers had done, that what we immediately 
perceive muft be either in the mind itfelf, or in 
the brain, to which the mind is immediately 
prefent. The impreffions made upon our organs, 
nerves, and brain, could be nothing, according 
to his philofophy, but various modifications of 
extenfion, figure and motion. There could be 



nothing in the brain like found or colour, tafte 
or fmell, heat or cold ; thefe are fenfations in the 
mind, which, by the laws of the union of foul 
and body, are raifed on occafion of certain traces 
in the brain ; and although he gives the name 
of ideas to thofe traces in the brain, he does not 
think it neceflary that they mould be perfectly 
like to the things which they reprefent, any 
more than that words or figns mould refemble 
the things they fignify. But, fays he, that we 
may follow the received opinion as far as is pof- 
iible, we may allow a flight refemblance. Thus 
we know, that a print in a book may reprefent 
houfes, temples, and groves ; and fo far is it from 
being neceflary that the print fhould be perfectly 
like the thing it reprefents, that its perfection 
often requires the contrary : For a circle mull 
often be reprefented by an ellipfe, a fquare by a 
rhombus, and fo of other things. 

The perceptions of fenfe, he thought, are to 
be referred folely to the union of foul and body. 
They commonly exhibit to us only what may 
hurt or profit our bodies ; and rarely, and by ac- 
cident only, exhibit things as they are in them*, 
felves. It is by obferving this, that we mull 
learn to throw off the prejudices of fenfe, and to 
attend with our intellecl: to the ideas which are 
by nature implanted in it. By this means we 
ihall underftand, that the nature of matter does 
not confift in thofe things that affect our fenfes, 


208 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 8. 

fuch as colour, or fmell, or tafte ; but only in 
this, that it is fomething extended in length, 
breadth, and depth. 

The writings of Des Cartes have in general 
a remarkable degree of perfpicuity ; and he un- 
doubtly intended that, in this particular, his phi- 
lofuphy mould be a perfect, contraft to that of 
Aristotle ; yet, in what he has faid in diffe- 
rent parts of his writings, of our perception of ex- 
ternal objects, there feems to be fome obicurity, 
and even inconfiftency ; whether owing to his 
having had different opinions on the fubject at 
different times, or to the difficulty he found in 
it, I will not pretend to fay. 

There are two points in particular, wherein I 
cannot reconcile him to himfelf : The^/zr/?, re- 
garding the place of the ideas or images of ex- 
ternal objects, which are the immediate objects 
of perception ; the fecond, with regard to the ve- 
racity of our external fenfes. 

As to thejirjl, he fometimes places the ideas of 
material objects in the brain, not only when they 
are perceived, but when they are remembered 
or imagined ; and this has always been held to 
be the Cartefian doctrine ; yet he fometimes fays, 
that we are not to conceive the images or traces 
in the brain to be perceived, as if there were eyes 
in the brain ; thefe traces are only occalions on 
which, by the laws of the union of foul and 
body, ideas are excited in the mind \ and there- 


fore it is not neceiTary that there mould be an 
exact, fefemblanee between the traces and the 
things represented by them, any more than that 
words or iigns ihould be exactly like the things 
fignihed by them. ' 

Theife two opinions, I think, cannot be recon- 
ciled. For, if the images or traces in the brain 
are perceived, they mult b,e the objects of per- 
ception, and not the occaiions of it only. On 
the other hand, if they are only the occaiions of 
our perceiving, they are not perceived at all. 
Des Cartes feems to have hefitated between 
the two opinions, or to have pafTed from the one 
to the other. Mr Locke feems, in like manner, 
to have wavered between the two; fometimes 
reprefenting the ideas of material things as be- 
ing in the brain, but more frequently as in the 
mind itfelf. Neither Des Cartes nor Mr 
Locke could, coniiftently with themielves, at- 
tribute any other qualities to images in the brain, 
but extention, figure, and motion ; for as to 
thofe qualities which Mr Locke diftinguifhed 
by the name of fecondary qualities, both Philo- 
fophers believed them not to belong to body at 
all, and therefore could not afcribe them to ima- 
ges in the brain. 

Sir Isaac Newton and Dr Samuel Clarke, 
uniformly fpeak of the fpecies or images of ma- 
terial things as being in that part of the brain 
called the fenforium, and perceived by the mind 

Vol. L O ther« 

210 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 8. 

there prefent ; but the former fpeaks of this 
point only incidentally, and with his ufual mo- 
dcfty, in the form of a query. Malebranche 
is perfectly clear and unambiguous in this mat- 
ter. According to his fyitem, the images or 
traces in the brain are not perceived at all ; they 
are only occaflons upon which, by the laws of 
Nature, certain fenfations are felt by us, and cer- 
tain of the divine ideas difcovered to our 

The fecond point on which Des Cartes feems 
to waver, is with regard to the credit that is due 
to the testimony of our fenfes. 

Sometimes, from the perfection of the Deity, 
and his being no deceiver, he infers, that our 
fenfes and our other faculties cannot be fallaci- 
ous : And lince we feem clearly to perceive, 
that the idea of matter comes to us from things 
external, which it perfectly refembles, there- 
fore, we muft conclude, that there really exifts 
fomething extended in length, breadth, and 
depth, having all the properties which we clear- 
ly perceive to belong to an extended thing. 

At other times, we find Des Cartes and his 
followers making frequent complaints, as all the 
ancient Philofophers did, of the fallacies of fenfe. 
He warns us to throw off its prejudices, and to 
attend only, with our intellect, to the ideas im- 
planted there. By this means we may perceive, 
that the nature of matter does not confift in 



hardnefs, colour, weight, or any of thofe things 
that affect our fenfes, but in this only, that it is 
fomething extended in length, breadth and 
depth. The fenfes, he fays, are only relative to 
our prefent ftate ; they exhibit things only, as 
they tend to profit or to hurt us, and rarely, and 
by accident only, as they are in themfelves. 

It was probably owing to an averfion to admit 
any thing into philofophy, of which we have 
not a clear and diftincl: conception, that Des 
Cartes was led to deny, that there is any fub- 
ftance of matter, diftincl from thofe qualities of 
it which we perceive. We fay, that matter is 
fomething extended, figured, moveable. Ex- 
tention, figure, mobility, therefore, are not mat- 
ter, but qualities, belonging to this fomething, 
which we call matter. J)es Cartes could not 
relifh this ohkwxe fomething, which is fuppofed 
to be the fubjedt or fubjlratum of thofe qualities ; 
and therefore maintained, that extenfion is the 
very effence of matter. But, as we muft afcribe 
extenfion to fpace as well as to matter, he found 
himfelf under a neceffity of holding, that fpace 
and matter are the fame thing, and differ on- 
ly in our way of conceiving them \ fo that, 
wherever there is fpace there is matter, and no 
void left in the univerfe. The neceffary conie- 
quence of this is, that the material world has 
no bounds nor limits. He did not, however, 
ehoofe to call it infinite, but indefinite, 

O 2 It 

212 ESSAY II, [CHAP. 8. 

It was probably owing to the fame caufe that 
Des Cartes made the efTence of the foul to con- 
fiit in thought : He would not allow it to be an 
unknown fomething that has the power of think- 
ing ; it cannot therefore be without thought : 
And as he conceived that there can be no 
thought without ideas, the foul rauft have had 
ideas in its firft formation, which, of confe- 
quence, are innate. 

The fentiments of thofe who come after Des 
Cartes, with regard to the nature of body and 
mind, have been various. Many have main- 
tained, that body is only a collection of quali- 
ties to which we give one name ; and that the 
notion of a fubject of inhefion, to which thofe 
qualities belong, is only a fiction of the mind. 
Some have even maintained, that the foul is 
only a fucceffion of related ideas, without any 
fubjecl: of inhefion. It appears, by what has 
been faid, how far thefe notions are allied to the 
Cartefian fyftem. 

The triumph of the Cartefian fyftem over that 
of Aristotle, is one of the moil remarkable 
revolutions in the hiftory of philofophy, and has 
led me to dwell longer upon it than the prefent 
fubjecl: perhaps required. The authority of 
Aristotle was now no more. That reverence 
for hard words and dark notions, by which mens 
underftanding had been ftrangled in early years, 
was turned into contempt, and every thing fuf- 



pected which was not clearly and diftincrly un- 
derftood. This is the fpirit of the Cartefian 
philofophy, and is a more important acquifition 
to mankind than any of its particular tenets ; 
and for exerting this fpirit fo zealoufly, and 
fpreading it fo fuccefsfully, Des Cartes deferves 
immortal honour. 

It is to be obferved, however, that Des Car- 
tes rejected a part only of the ancient theory, 
concerning the perception of external objects 
by the fenfes, and that he adopted the other 
part. That theory may be divided inio two 
parts : The firft, That images, fpecies, or forms 
of external objects, come from the object, and 
enter by the avenues of the fenfes to the mind ; 
the ftcond part is, That the external object itfelf 
is not perceived, but only the fpecies or image 
of it in the mind. The firft part Des Cartes 
and his followers rejected, and refuted by foiid 
arguments ; but the fecond part, neither he, nor 
his followers, have thought of calling in que» 
ftion ; being perfuaded, that it is only a repre- 
fentative image, in the mind, of the external 
object that we perceive, and not the object itfel£ 
And this image, which the Peripatetics called a 
fpecies, he calls an idea, changing the name 
only, while he admits the thing. 

It feems ftrange, that the great pains which 
this Philofopher took to throw off the prejudi- 
ces of education, to difmifs all his former opi- 
O 3 nions. 

214 ESSAY II. [chap. 8, 

nions, and to affent to nothing, till he found 
evidence that compelled his affent, mould not 
have led him to doubt of this opinion of the 
ancient philofophy. It is evidently a philofo- 
phical opinion ; for the vulgar undoubtedly be- 
lieve that it is the external object which we 
immediately perceive, and not a reprefentative 
image of it only. It is for this reafon, that they 
look upon it as a perfect lunacy to call in que- 
(lion the exiftence of external objects. 

It feems to be admitted as a firft principle by 
the learned and the unlearned, that what is 
really perceived muft exift, and that to perceive 
what does not exift is impoffible. So far the 
unlearned man and the Philofopher agree. The 
unlearned man fays, I perceive the external ob- 
ject, and I perceive it to exifl. Nothing can 
be more abfurd than to doubt of it. The Pe- 
ripatetic fays, what I perceive is the very iden- 
tical form of the object, which came immedi- 
ately from the object, and makes an impref- 
iion upon my mind, as a feal does upon wax ; 
and therefore, I can have no doubt of the exift- 
ence of an object whofe form I perceive. But 
what fays the Cartel! an ? I perceive not, fays he, 
the external object itfelf. So far he agrees with 
the Peripatetic, and differs from the unlearned 
man. But I perceive an image, or form, or idea, 
in my own mind, or in my brain. I am cer- 
tain of the exiftence of the idea, becaufe I im- 
mediately perceive it. But how this idea is 



formed, or what it reprefents, is not felf-evident ; 
and therefore I mull find arguments, by which, 
from the exiitence of the idea which I perceive, 
I can infer the exiitence of an external object 
which it reprefents. 

As I take this to be a jult view of the prin- 
ciples of the unlearned man, of the Peripatetic, 
and of the Cartelian, fo I think they all reafon 
confequemially from their feveral principles ; 
that the Cartelian has Itrong grounds to doubt 
of the exiitence of external objects ; the Peri- 
patetic very little ground of doubt ; and the un- 
learned man none at all : And that the differ- 
ence of their lituation arifes from this, -that the 
unlearned man has no hypothelis \ the Peripate- 
tic leans upon an hypothelis ; and the Cartelian 
upon one half of that hypothelis. 

Des Cartes, according to the fpirit of his 
own philofophy, ought to have doubted of both 
parts of the Peripatetic h pothelis, or to have 
given his reafons why he adopted one part, as 
well as why he rejected the other part ; efpeci- 
ally, firice the unlearned, who have the faculty 
of perceiving objects by their fenfes in no lets 
perfection than Philofophers, and mould there- 
fore know, as well as they, what it is they per- 
ceive, have been unanimous in this, that the 
objects they perceive are not ideas in their own 
minds, but things external. It might have been 
expected, that a Philofopher who was fo cauti^ 
O 4 ous 

2l6 , ESSAY II. [CHAP. 8. 

ous as not to take his own exiftence for granted 
without proof, would not have taken it for grant- 
ed, without proof, that every thing he perceived 
was only ideas in his own mind. 

But if Des Cartes made a rafh flep in this, as 
I apprehend he did, he ought not to bear the 
blame alone. His fucceflfors have ftill continued 
in the fame track, and, after his example, have 
adopted one part of the ancient theory, to wit, 
that the objects we immediately perceive are 
ideas only. All their fyilems are built on this 


Of the Sentiments of Mr Locke. 

THE reputation which Locke's EfTay on hu- 
man underilanding had at home from the 
beginning, and which it has gradually acquired 
abroad, is a fufficient teftimony of its merit. 
There is perhaps no book of the metaphyficai 
kind that has been fo generally read by thofe 
who underftand the language, or that is more 
adapted to teach men to think with precifion, 
and to infpire them with that candour and love 
of truth, which is the genuine fpirit of philofo- 
phy. He gave, I believe, the firft example in 
the Englifh language of writing on fuch abftrad 



fubje&s, with a remarkable degree of iimplicity 
and perfpicuity ; and in this he has been happi- 
ly imitated by others that came after him. No 
author hath more fuccefsfully pointed out the 
danger of ambiguous words, and the importance 
of having diftinct and determinate notions in 
judging and reafoning. His obfervations on the 
various powers of the human understanding, on 
the ufe and abufe of words, and on the extent 
and limits of human knowledge, are drawn from 
attentive reflection on the operations of his own 
mind, the true fource of all real knowledge on 
thefe fubjects ; and fhew an uncommon degree 
of penetration and judgment : But he needs no 
panegyric of mine ; and I mention thefe things, 
only that, when I have occasion to differ from 
him, I may not be thought infenfible of the me- 
rit of an author whom I highly refpect, and to 
whom I owe my firft lights in thofe ftudies, as 
well as my attachment to them. 

He fets out in his EfTay with a full conviction, 
common to him with other Philofophers, that 
ideas in the mind are the objects of all our 
thoughts in every operation of the understand- 
ing. This leads him to ufe the word idea fo ve- 
ry frequently, beyond what was ufual in the 
Engliih language, that he thought it necessary 
in his introduction to make this apology : " It 
" being that term, fays he, which, I think, 
W ferves bell to ftand for whatfoever is the ob- 

" jecl 

2l8 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 9. 

" jecl of underftanding, when a man thinks ; 
" I have ufed it to exprefs whatever is meant 
" by phantafm, notion, fpecies, or whatever it 
" is which the mind can be employed about in 
"■ thinking ; and I could not avoid frequently 
" uling it. I prefume it will be granted me, that 
'* there are fuch ideas in mens minds ; every 
" man is confcious of them in himfelf ; and mens 
" words and actions will fatisfy him that they 
" are in others." 

Speaking of the reality of our knowledge, 
he fays, " It is evident the mind knows not 
" things immediately, but only by the interven- 
" tion of the ideas ;it has of them : Our know- 
" ledge therefore is real, only fo far as there 
" is a conformity between our ideas and the r-ea- 
" lity of things. But what fhall be here the 
" criterion ? How mall the mind, when it per- 
" ceives nothing but its own ideas, know that 
" they agree with things themfelves ? This, 
" though it feems not to want difficulty, yet I 
4t think there be two forts of ideas that we may 
" be affured agree with things." 

We fee that Mr Locke was aware no lefs than 
Des Cartes, that the doctrine of ideas made it 
neceiTary, and at the fame time difficult, to prove 
the exiftence of a material world without us ; 
becaufe the mind, according to that doctrine, 
perceives nothing but a world of ideas in itfelf. 
Not only Des Cartes, but Malebranche, Ar- 



nauld, and Norris, had perceived this diffi- 
culty, and attempted to remove it with little fuc- 
cefs. Mr Locke attempts the fame thing; but 
his arguments are feeble. He even feems to be 
confcious of this: For he concludes his reafon- 
ing with this obfervation, " That we have evi- 
" dence fufficient to direct us in attaining the 
" good and avoiding the evil, caufed by exter- 
" nal objects, and that this is the important con- 
** cern we have in being made acquainted with 
" them." This indeed is faying no more than 
will be granted by thofe who deny the exiflence 
of a material world. 

As there is no material difference between 
Locke and Des Cartes with regard to the 
perception of objects by the fenfes, there is 
the lefs occafion, in this place, to take notice of 
all their differences in other points. They dif- 
fered about the origin, of our ideas. Des Car- 
tes thought fotne of them were innate : The 
other maintained, that there are no innate ideas, 
and that they are all derived from two fources, 
to wit, fenfation and reflexion ; meaning bv fen- 
fation, the operations of our external fenfes ; 
and by reflection, that attention which we are 
capable, of giving to the operations of our own 

They differed with regard to the eiTence bcth 
of matter and of mind : The Britifli Philofopher 
holding, that the real effence of both is beyond 


220 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 9. 

the reach of human knowledge ; the other con- 
ceiving, that the very effence of mind confifts in 
thought ; and that of matter in extenlion ; by 
which he made matter and fpace not to differ in 
reality, and no part of fpace to be void of mat- 

Mr Locke explained, more diftindlly than had 
been done before, the operations of the mind in 
claffing the various objects of thought, and redu- 
cing them to genera and fpecies. He was the 
firft, I think, who diftinguifhed in fubftances 
what he calls the nominal effence, which is only 
the notion we form of a genus or fpecies, and 
which we exprefs by a definition, from the real 
effence or internal conftitution of the thing, 
which makes it to be what it is. Without this 
diflinclion, the fubtile difputes which tortured 
the fchoolmen for fo many ages, in the contro- 
verfy between the nominalifts and realifts, could 
never be brought to an iffue. He ihews dif- 
tinctly how we form abftract and general notions, 
and the ufe and neceffity of them in reafoning. 
And as (according to the received principles of 
Philofophers) every notion of our mind muft 
have for its object an idea in the mind itfelf ; he 
thinks that we form abftract ideas by leaving 
out of the idea of an individual, every thing 
whsrein it differs from other individuals of the 
fame fpecies or genus ; and that this power of 
forming abftract ideas, is that which chiefly dif- 



tinguifhes us from brute animals, in whom he 
could fee no evidence of any abftract ideas. 

Since the time of Des Cartes, Philofophers 
have differed much with regard to the fhare they 
afcribe to the mind itfelf, in the fabrication of 
thofe reprefentative beings called ideas, and the 
manner in which this work is carried on. 

Of the authors I have met with, Dr Robert 
Hook is the raoft explicit. He was one of the 
raoft ingenious and active members of the Royal 
Society of London at its firft inftitution \ and 
frequently read lectures to the Society, which 
were publiihed among his pofthumous works. In 
his lectures upon Light, feci:. 7. he makes ideas 
to be material fubftances ; and thinks that the 
brain is furnifhed with a proper kind of matter 
for fabricating the ideas of each fenfe. The ideas 
of light, he thinks, are formed of a kind of matter 
refembling the Bononian ftone, or fome kind of 
phofphorus ; that the ideas of found are formed 
of fome matter refembling the chords or glaffes 
which take a found from the vibrations of the 
air ; and fo of the reft. 

The foul, he thinks, may fabricate fome hun- 
dreds of thole ideas in a day ; and that as they 
are formed, they are pufhed farther off from the 
centre of the brain where the foul refides. By 
this means they make a continued chain of ideas, 
coyled up in the brain, the firft end of which is 
fartheft removed from the centre or feat of the 

foul i 

222 E SS AY If. [CHAP. 9. 

foul ; and the other end is always at the centre, 
being the laft idea formed, which is always the 
prefent moment when confidered ; and therefore, 
according as there is a greater number of ideas 
between the prefent fenfation or thought in the 
centre and any other, the foul is apprehenlive of 
a larger portion of time interpofed. 

Mr Locke has not entered into fo minute a 
detail of this manufacture of ideas ; but he afcribes 
to the mind a very coniiderable hand in forming 
its own ideas. With regard to our fenfations, 
the mind is paffive, " they being produced in us, 
*' only by different degrees and modes of mo- 
" tion in our animal fpirits, varioufly agitated by 
" external objedt :" Thefe, however, ceafe to 
be, as foon as they ceafe to be perceived ; but, 
by the faculties of memory and imagination, 
" the mind has an ability, when it wills, to re- 
" vive them again, and, as it were, to paint them 
" anew upon itfelf, though fome with more, fome 
" with lefs difficulty." 

As to the ideas of reflection, he afcribes them 
to no other caufe but to that attention which the 
mind is capable of giving to its own operations : 
Thefe, therefore, are formed by the mind itfelf. 
He afcribes likewife to the mind the power of 
compounding its iimple ideas into complex ones 
of various forms ; of repeating them, and ad- 
ding the repetitions together \ of dividing and 
claffing them ', of comparing them, and, from 



that compariforij of forming the ideas of their 
relation ; nay, of forming a general idea of a 
fpecies or genus, by taking from the idea of an 
individual every thing by which it is diftinguifh- 
ed from other individuals of the kind, till at lait 
it becomes an abftract general idea, common to 
all the individuals of the kind. 

Thefe, I think, are the powers which Mr 
Locke afcribes to the mind itfelf in the fabri- 
cation of its ideas* Bilhop Berkeley, as we 
fhall fee afterwards, abridged them consider- 
ably, and Mr Hume much more. 

The ideas we have of the various qualities or 
bodies are not all, as Mr Locke thinks, of the 
fame kind. Some of them are images or refem- 
blances of what is really in the body ; others 
are not. There are certain qualities infeparable 
from matter ; fuch as extenfion, folidity, figure,. 
mobility. Our ideas of thefe are real refem- 
blances of the qualities in the body ; and thefe 
he calls primary qualities : But colour, found, 
tafte, fmell, heat, and cold, he calls fecondary 
qualities, and thinks that they are only powers 
in bodies of producing certain fenfations in us ; 
which fenfations have nothing refembling them, 
though they are commonly thought to be exacl 
refemblances of fomething in the body. " Thus, 
" fays he, the idea of heat or light, which we 
(l receive, by our eye or touch, from the fun, 
" are commonly thought real qualities exifting 

" in 

224 ESSAY II. [CHAP. p. 

" in the fun, and fomething more than mere 
" powers in it." 

The names of primary and fccondary qualities, 
were, I believe, firft ufed by Mr Locke ; but 
the diftin&ion, which they exprefs, was well un- 
derftood by Des Cartes, and is explained by 
him in his Principia, part i. feet. 69, 70, 71. 

Although no author has more merit than Mr 
Locke, in pointing out the ambiguity of words, 
and refolving, by that means, many knotty quef- 
tions, which had tortured the wits of the fchool- 
men ; yet, I apprehend he has been fometimes 
milled by the ambiguity of the word idea, which 
he ufes fo often almoft in every page of his EfTay. 

In the explication given of this word, we took 
notice of two meanings given to it; a popular 
and a philofophical. In the popular meaning, 
to have an idea of any thing, fignifies nothing 
more than to think of it. 

Although the operations of the mind are mod 
properly and naturally, and indeed mofl com- 
monly in all vulgar languages, expreffed by ac- 
tive verbs, there is another way of expreiling 
them lefs common, but equally well underftood. 
To think of a thing, and to have a thought of it; 
to believe a thing, and to have a belief of it ; to 
fee a thing, and have a light of it ; to conceive a 
thing, and to have a conception, notion, or idea 
of it, are phrafes perfectly fynonymous. In 
thefe phrafes, the thought means nothing but 



the ad of thinking; the belief, the act. of believ- 
ing ; and the conception, notion, ox idea, the act 
of conceiving. To have a clear and diftinct 
idea, is, in this fenfe, nothing elfe but to con- 
ceive the thing clearly and diltinctly. When the 
word idea is taken in this popular fenfe, there 
can be no doubt of our having ideas in our minds. 
To think without ideas would be to think with- 
out thought, which is a manifeft contradiction. 

But there is another meaning of the word 
idea peculiar to Philofophers, and grounded up- 
on a philofophical theory, which the vulgar ne- 
ver think of. Philofophers, ancient and modern, 
have maintained, that the operations of the mind, 
like the tools of an artificer, can only be em- 
ployed upon objects that are prefent in the mind, 
or in the brain, where the mind is fiippofed to 
refide. Therefore, objects that are diflant, in 
time or place, rauft have a reprefentative in the 
mind, or in the brain ; fome image or picture of 
them, which is the object that 'the mind con- 
templates. This reprefentative image was, in 
the old philofophy, called a /pedes or phantafm. 
Since the .time of Des Cartes, it has more com- 
monly been called an idea ; and every thought 
is conceived to have an idea for its object. As 
this has been a common opinion among Philo- 
fophers, as far back as We can trace philofophy, 
it is the lefs to be wondered at, that they mould 
be apt to confound the operation of the mind in 

Vol, I, P thinking. 

■2l6 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 9. 

thinking, with the idea or object of thought^ 
which is fuppofed to be its infeparable conco- 

If we pay any regard to the common fenfe of 
mankind, thought and the object of thought 
are different things, and ought to be diftinguifh- 
ed. It is true, thought cannot be without an 
object ; for every man who thinks mull think of 
fomething ; but the object he thinks of is one 
thing, his thought of that object is another thing. 
They are diftinguifhed in all languages even by 
the vulgar ; and many things may be affirmed of 
thought, that is, of the operation of the mind in 
thinking, which cannot without error, and even 
abiurdity, be affirmed of the object of that opera- 

From this, I think it is evident, that if the 
word idea, in a work where it occurs in every 
paragraph, be ufed without any intimation of 
the ambiguity of the word, fometimes to ligni- 
fy thought, or. the operation of the mind in 
thinking, fometimes to fignify thofe internal ob- 
jects of thought which Philofophers fuppofe, 
this mud occafion confufion in the thoughts 
both of the author and of the readers. I take 
this to be the greater! blemifh in the Effay on 
Human Underftanding. I apprehend this is the 
true iource of feveral paradoxical opinions in that 
excellent work, which I jhall have occafion to 
take notice of. 



Here it is very natural to afk, Whether it was 
Mr Locke's opinion, that ideas are the only ob- 
jects of thought ? or, Whether it is not poffible 
for men to think of things which are not ideas 
in the mind ? 

To this queftion it is not eafy to give a di- 
rect anfvver. On the one hand, he fays often, in 
diftinct and ftudied expreffions, that the term 
idea ftands for whatever is the object of the un- 
derftanding when a man thinks, or whatever it 
is which the mind can be employed about in 
thinking : That the mind perceives nothing but 
its own ideas : That all knowledge coniifts in 
the perception of the agreement or difagreement 
of our ideas: That we can have no knowledge 
further than we have ideas. Thefe, and many 
other expreffions of the like import, evidently 
imply, that every object of thought muft be an 
idea, and can be nothing elfe. 

On the other hand, I am perfuaded that Mr 
Locke would have acknowledged, that we may 
think of Alexander the Great, or of the pla- 
net Jupiter, and of numberlefs things, which he 
would have owned are not ideas in the mind, 
but objects which exiil independent of the 
mind that thinks of them. 

How mall we reconcile the two parts of this 
apparent contradiction ? All I am able to fay 
upon Mr Locke's principles to reconcile them, 
is this, That we cannot' think of Alexander, 

P 2 or 

22§ ESSAY II. [CHAP. 9. 

or of the planet Jupiter, unlefs we have in our 
minds an idea, that is, an image or picture of 
thofe obje&s. The idea of Alexander is an 
image, or picture, or reprefentation of that hero 
in my mind ; and this idea is the immediate ob- 
ject of my thought when I think of Alexan- 
der. That this was Locke's opinion, and that 
it has been generally the opinion of Philofophers, 
there can be no doubt. 

But, inftead of giving light to the queftion 
propofed, it feems to involve it in greater dark- 

When I think of Alexander, I am told 
there is an image or idea of Alexander in my 
mind, which is the immediate objecl: of this 
thought. The neceffary confecraence of this 
feems to be, that there are two obje&s of this 
thought ; the idea, which is in the mind, and 
the perfon reprefented by that idea ; the firft, 
the immediate object of the thought, the laft, 
the object of the fame thought, but not the im- 
mediate object. This is a hard faying ; for it 
makes every thought of things external to have 
a double object. Every man is confcious of his 
thoughts, and yet, upon attentive reflection, he 
perceives no fuch duplicity in the object he 
thinks about. Sometimes men fee obje&s 
double, but they always know when they do 
fo : And I know of no Philofopher who has ex- 
prefsly owned thia duplicity in the object of 



thought, though it follows neceflariiy from main- 
taining, hat, in the fame thought, there is one 
object, that is immediate and in the mind itfeif, 
and another object, which is not immediate, and 
which is not in the mind. 

Beiides this, jfc feems very hard, or rather im- 
poffible, to underftand what is meant by an ob- 
ject of thought, that is not an immediate object 
of thought. A body in motion may move ano- 
ther that was at reft, by the medium of a third 
body that is interpofed. This is eafily under- 
stood ; but we are unable to conceive any me- 
dium interpofed between a mind and the thought 
of that mind ; and, to think of any object: by a 
medium, feems to be words without any meaning. 
There is a fenfe in which a thing may be faid to 
be perceived by a medium. Thus, any kind of 
fign may be faid to be the medium by which I 
perceive or underftand the thing iignified. The 
iign, by cuftom, or compact, or perhaps by nature, 
introduces the thought of the thing Iignified. 
But here the thing fignified, when it is introdu- 
ced to the thought, is an object of thought no 
lefs immediate than the fign was before : And 
there are here two objects of thought, one fuc- 
ceeding another, which we have fhown is not 
the cafe with refpect to an idea, and the object 
it reprefents. 

I apprehend, therefore, that if Philofophers 
will maintain, that ideas in the mind are the 

P 3 only 

23© ESSAY II. [CHAP. 9. 

only immediate objects of thought, they will be 
forced to grant that they are the fole objects 
of thought, and that it is impoflible for men 
to think of any thing elfe. Yet, furely Mr 
Locke believed that we can think of many 
things that are not ideas in the mind ; but 
he feems not to have perceived, that the main- 
taining that ideas in the mind are the only im- 
mediate objects of thought, muft necefiarily draw 
this confequence along with it. 

The confequence, however, was feen by Bi- 
fhop Berkeley and Mr Hume, who rather 
chofe to admit the confequence than to give up 
the principle from which it follows. 

Perhaps it was unfortunate for Mr Locke, 
that he ufed the word idea fo very frequently, 
as to make it very difficult to give the attention 
neceflary to put it always to the fame meaning/ 
And it appears evident, that, in many places, he 
means nothing more by it but the notion or con- 
ception we have of any object of thought ; that 
is, the act of the mind in conceiving it, and not 
the object conceived. 

In explaining this word, he fays, that he ufes 
it for whatever is meant by phantafm, notion, 
fpecies. Here are three fynonymes to the word 
idea. The firft and laft are very proper to ex- 
prefs the philofophical meaning of the word, 
being terms of art in the Peripatetic philofophy, 
and fignifying images of external things in the 



mind, which, according to that philofophy, are 
objects of thought. But the word notion is a 
word in common language, whofe meaning a- 
grees exactly with the popular meaning of the 
word idea, but not with the philofophical. 

When thefe two different meanings of the 
word idea are confounded in a flu died explica- 
tion of it, there is little reafon to expect that 
they fhould be carefully diftinguifhed in the fre- 
quent ufe of it. There are many paifages in 
the EiTay, in which, to make them intelligible 
the word idea mult be taken in one of thofe 
ienfes, and many others, in which it nmft be 
taken in the other. It feems probable, that the 
author, not attending to this ambiguity of the 
word, ufed it in the one fenfe or the other, as 
the fubj eel- matter required ; and the far great- 
er part of his readers have done the fame. 

There is a third fenfe, in which he ufes the 
word not unfrequently, to fignify objects of 
thought that are not in the mind, but exter- 
nal. Of this he feems to be fenfible, and 
ibme where makes an apology for it. When 
he affirms, as he does in innumerable pla- 
ces, that all human knowledge confifls in the 
perception of the agreement or difagreement of 
our ideas, it is impoffible to put a meaning upon 
this, confident with his principles, imlefs he 
means by ideas every object of human thought, 
whether mediate or immediate \ every thing, in 
P 4 a 

'-j2 Z S S AY II. [chap, a 

a word, that can be lignined by the fubject, or 
by the predicate of a proposition. 

Thus we fee, that the word idea has three dif- 
ferent meanings in the EiTay ; and the author 
feems to have uied it fometimes in one, fometimes 
in another, without being aware of any change 
in the meaning. The reader Hides eaiily into 
the fame fallacy, that meaning occurring moll rea- 
dily to his mind which gives the belt feme to 
what he reads. I have met with perfons profi- 
ling no flight acquaintance with the EiTay on Hu- 
man Understanding, who maintained, that the 
word idea, wherever it occurs, means nothing 
more than thought : and that where he fpeaks 
of ideas as images in the mind, and as objects of 
thought, he is not to be underitccd as fpeaking 
properly, but figuratively or analogically : And 
indeed I apprehend, that it would be no final! 
advantage to many paiTages in the book, if they 
could admit of this interpretation. 

I: is not the fault of this Philcfopher alone 
to have given too littJe attention to the diitinc- 
tion between the operations of the mind and the 
objects of thoie operations. Although this di- 
ftinction be familiar to the vulgar, and found in 
the ftrucrure of all languages, Philofophers, 
when they fpeak of ideas, often confound the 
two together ; and their theory concerning ideas 
has led them to do fo : For ideas being fappofed 
: 3 bo a flbtadowy kind of beings, intermediate be- 


tween the thought, and the object of thought, 
fometimes feem to coalefce with the thought, 
fometimes with the object of thought, and fome- 
times to have a diltinct exiftence of their own. 

The fame philofophical theory of ideas has 
led Philoibphers to confound the different ope- 
rations of the underflanding, and to call them 
all by the name of perception. Mr Locke, 
though not free from this fault, is not fo often 
chargeable with it, as fome who came after him. 
The vulgar give the name of perception to that 
immediate knowledge of external objects which 
we have by our external fenfes. This is its pro- 
per meaning in our language, though fometimes 
it may be applied to other things metaphorically 
or analogically. When I think of any thing 
that does not exiit, as of the republic of Oceana, 
I do not perceive it ; I only conceive or imagine 
it : When I think of what happened to me 
yeiterday, I do not perceive but remember it : 
When I am pained with the gout, it is not pro- 
per to fay I perceive the pain ; I feel it ; or am 
confcious of it : It is not an object of perception, 
but of fenfation and of confcioufnefs. So far 
the vulgar diftinguifh. very properly the different 
operations of the mind, and never confound the 
names of things fo different in their nature' 
But the theory of ideas leads Philofophers to con- 
ceive all thofe operations to be of one nature, and 
to give them one name : They are all, according 


234 ESSAY II. {CHAP. 9. 

to that theory, the perception of ideas in the 
mind. Perceiving, remembering, imagining, be- 
ing confcious, are all perceiving ideas in the 
mind, and are called perceptions. Hence it is 
that Philofophers fpeak of the perceptions of 
memory, and the perceptions of imagination. 
They make fenfation to be a perception ; and 
every thing we perceive by our fenfes to be an 
idea of fenfation : Sometimes they fay, that they 
are confcious of the ideas in their own minds, 
fometimes that they perceive them. 

However improbable it may appear that Phi- 
lofophers, who have taken pains to ftudy the 
operations of their own minds, fhould exprefs 
them lefs properly, and lefs diftincHy than the 
vulgar, it feems really to be the cafe ; and the 
only account that can be given of this ftrange 
phcenomenon, I take to be this : That the vul- 
gar feek no theory to account for the operations 
of their minds ; they know that they fee, and 
hear, and remember, and imagine ; and thofe 
who think diftinctly will exprefs thefe opera- 
tions diftinctly, as their confcioufnefs reprefents 
them to the mind : But Philofophers think they 
ought to know not only that there are fuch ope- 
rations, but how they are performed ', how they 
fee, and hear, and remember, and imagine ; and, 
haVing invented a theory to explain thefe ope- 
rations, by ideas or images in the mind, they 
iuit their expreffions to their theory ; and as a 



falfe comment throws a cloud upon the text, 
fo a falfe theory darkens the phenomena which 
it attempts to explain. 

We mail examine this theory afterwards. 
Here I would only obferve, that if it is not true, 
it may be expected that it mould lead ingeni- 
ous men who adopt it to confound the opera- 
tions of the mind with their objects, and with 
one another, even where the common language of 
the unlearned clearly diftinguifhes them. One 
that trufts to a falfe guide is in greater danger of 
being led aftray than he who trufts his own eyes, 
though he fhould be but indifferently acquaint- 
ed with the road. 


Of the Sentiments of Bi/hop Berkeley. 

GEORGE BERKELEY, afterwards Biihop 
of Cloyne, publifhed his new Theory of 
Viiion in 1709; his Treatife on the Principles of 
Human Knowledge in 1710 ; and his Dialogues 
between Hylas and Philonous in 17 13 ; being 
then a fellow of Trinity College, Dublin. He 
is acknowledged univerfally to have great merit 
as an excellent writer, and a very acute and clear 
reafoner on the mod abftracT: fubje&s, not to 
fpeak of his virtues as a man, which were very 

confpicuous : 

236 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 10, 

confpicuous : Yet the doctrine chiefly held forth 
in the treatifes above mentioned, efpecially in 
the two laft, has generally been thought fo very 
abfurd, that few can be brought to think that he 
either believed it himfelf, or that he ferioufly 
meant to perfuade others of its truth. 

He maintains, and thinks he has demon- 
ftrated, by a variety of arguments, grounded on 
principles of philofophy univerfally received, 
that there is no men thing as matter in the uni- 
verfe ; that fun and moon, earth and fea, our 
own bodies, and thofe of our friends, are no- 
thing but ideas in the minds of thofe who think 
of them, and that they have no exiftence when 
they are not the objects of thought ; that all 
that is in the univerfe may be reduced to two 
categories, to wit, minds, and ideas in the 

But however abfurd this doctrine might ap- 
pear to the unlearned, who conlider the exift- 
ence of the objects of fenfe as the mofl evident 
of all truths, and what no man in his fenfes can 
doubt \ the Phiiofophers, who had been accuf- 
tomed to conlider ideas as the immediate ob- 
jects of all thought, had no title to view this 
doctrine of Berkeley in fo unfavourable a light. 

They were taught by Des Cartes, and by 
all that came after him, that the exiftence of 
the objects of fenfe is not felf-evident, but re- 
quires to be proved by arguments ; and al- 


though Des Cartes, and many others, had la- 
boured to find arguments for this purpofe, there 
did not appear to be that force and clearneis in 
them which might have been expected in a 
matter of fuch importance. Mr Norris had 
declared, that after all the arguments that had 
been offered, the exiftence of an external world 
is only probable, but by no means certain. Ma- 
lebranche thought it relied upon the authori- 
ty of revelation, and that the arguments drawn 
from reafon were not perfectly conclufive. O- 
thers thought, that the argument from revela- 
tion was a mere fophifm, becaufe revelation 
comes to us by our fenfes, and muft reft upon 
their authority. 

Thus we fee, that the new philofophy had 
been making gradual approaches towards Berke- 
ley's opinion ; and, whatever others might do, 
the Philofophers had no title to look upon it as 
abfurd, or unworthy of a fair examination. Se- 
veral authors attempted to anfwer his arguments, 
but with little fuccefs, and others acknowledged 
that they could neither anfwer them nor affent 
to them. It is probable the Bifhop made but 
few converts to his doctrine ; but it is certain he 
made iome ; and that he himfelf continued, to 
the end of his life, firmly perfuaded, not only 
of its truth, but of its great importance for the 
improvement of human knowledge, and efpe- 
cially for the defence of religion. Dial. Pref. 

fi If 

238 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 10. 

" If the principles which I here endeavour to 
" propagate are admitted for true, the confe- 
" quences which I think evidently flow from 
" thence are, that atheifm and fcepticifm will he 
" utterly deflroyed, many intricate points made 
" plain, great difficulties folved, feveral ufelefs 
" parts of fcience retrenched, fpeculation refer- 
" red to practice, and men reduced from para- 
" doxes to common fenfe." 

In the Theory of Virion, he goes no further 
than to aflert, that the objects of light are no- 
thing but ideas in the mind, granting, or at leaft 
not denying, that there is a tangible world, 
which is really external, and which exifts whe- 
ther we perceive it or not. Whether the reafon 
of this was, that his fyftem had not, at that 
time, wholly opened to his own mind, or whe- 
ther he thought it prudent to let it enter into 
the minds of his readers by degrees, I cannot 
fay. I think he infinuates the laft as the reafon 
in the Principles of Human Knowledge. 

The Theory of Virion, however, taken by 
itfelf, and without relation to the main branch 
of his fyftem, contains very important difco- 
veries, and marks of great genius. He diftin- 
guifhes, more accurately than any that went 
before him, between the immediate objects of 
light, and thofe of the other fenfes which are 
early afTociated with them. He fhews, that di- 
ftance, of itfelf, and immediately, is not feen ; 



but that we learn to judge of it by certain fen- 
fations and perceptions which are connected 
with it. This is a very important obfervation ; 
and, I believe, was firft made by this author. It 
gives much new light to the operations of our 
fenfes, and ferves to account for many pheno- 
mena in optics, of which the greateft adepts in 
that fcience had always either given a falfe ac- 
count, or acknowledged that they could give 
none at all. 

We may obferve, by the way, that the inge- 
nious author feems not to have attended to a di- 
ftinction, by which his general affertion ought 
to have been limited. It is true that the di~ 
fiance of an object from the eye is not imme- 
diately feen ; but there is a certain kind of di- 
ftance of one object from another which we fee 
immediately. The author acknowledges, that 
there is a vifible extenfion, and vilible figures, 
which are proper objects .of light ; there inuit 
therefore be a vifible dillance. Artronomers 
call it angular dillance ; and although they mca- 
fure it by the angle, which is made by two lines 
drawn from the eye to the two diftant objects, 
yet it is immediately perceived by light, even 
by thofe who never thought of that angle. 

He led the way in mewing how we learn to 
perceive the dillance of an object from the eye, 
though this fpeculation was carried further by 
Others wljo came, after him. He made the 


24O ESSAY II. [CHAP. 10. 

diftinction between that extenfion and figure 
which we perceive by light only, and that 
which we perceive by touch ; calling the firft, 
vifible, • the laft, tangible extenfion and figure. 
He fhewed likewife, that tangible extenfion, and 
not vifible, is the object of geometry, although 
Mathematicians commonly ufe vifible diagrams 
in their demonftrations. 

The notion of extenfion and figure which we 
get from fight only, and that which we get from 
touch, have been fo conftantly conjoined from 
our infancy in all the judgments we form of 
the objects of fenfe, that it required great abi- 
lities to diftinguifh them accurately, and to af- 
fign to each fenfe what truly belongs to it ; " fo 
" difficult a thing it is/' as Serkeley juftly ob- 
ferves, " to diflblve an union fo early begun, and 
" confirmed by fo long a habit." This point 
he has laboured, through the whole of the Ef- 
fay on Vifion, with that uncommon penetration 
and judgment which he pofTeffed, and with as 
great fuccefs as could be expected in a firft at- 
tempt upon fo abftrufe a fubject. 

He concludes this ElTay, by mewing, in no 
lefs than feven feclions, the notions which an in- 
telligent being, endowed with fight, without 
the fenfe of touch, might form of the objects of 
fenfe. This fpeculation, to fhallow thinkers^ 
may appear to be egregious trifling. To Bifhop 
Berkeley it appeared in another light, and will 



do fo to thofe who are capable of entering into 
it, and who know the importance of it, in fol- 
ving many of the phenomena of vifion. He 
feems, indeed, to have exerted more force of 
genius in this than in the main branch of his 

In the new philofophy, the pillars by which 
the exigence of a material world was fupported, 
were fo feeble, that it did not require the force 
of a Samson to bring them down ; and in this 
we have not fo much reafon to admire the 
Strength of Berkeley's genius, as his boldnefs 
in publiming to the world an opinion, which 
the unlearned would be apt to interpret as the 
fign of a crazy intellect. A man who was firm- 
ly perfuaded of the doctrine univerfally recei- 
ved by Philofophers concerning ideas, if he 
could but take courage to call in queftion the 
exiftence of a material world, would eafily 
find unanfvverable arguments in that doctrine. 
" Some truths there are," fays Berkeley, " fo 
&i near and obvious to the mind, that a man need 
" only open his eyes to fee them. Such," he 
adds, " I take this important one to be, that all 
" the choir of heaven, and furniture of the 
" earth ; in a word, all thofe bodies which com- 
u pofe the mighty frame of the world ; have 
" not any fubfiflence without a mind." Princ. 
5 6. 

Vol. I. (^ The 

242 ESSAY II. ' [CHAP. 10. 

The principle from which this important con- 
clufion is obvioufly deduced, is laid down in the 
firft fentence of his Principles of Knowledge as 
evident ; and indeed it had always been ac- 
knowledged by Philofophers. " It is evident," 
fays he, " to any one who takes a furvey of the 
" objects of human knowledge, that they are 
" either ideas actually imprinted on the fenfes, 
" or elfe fuch as are perceived, by attending to 
" the paffions and operations of the mind ; or, 
" laftly, ideas formed by help of memory and 
" imagination, either compounding, dividing, or 
f* barely reprefenting thofe originally perceived 
" in the forefaid ways." 

This is the foundation on which the whole 
Fyftem refts. If this be true, then, indeed, the 
exiftence of a material world mufl be a dream 
that has impofed upon all mankind from the be- 
ginning of the world. 

The foundation on which fuch a fabric refts 
ought to be very folid, and well eftablifhed ; 
yet Berkeley fays nothing more for it than 
that it is evident. If he means that it is felf- 
evident, this, indeed, might be a good reafon 
for not offering any direct argument in proof of 
it. But I apprehend this cannot juftly be faid. 
Self-evident proportions are thofe which appear 
evident to every man of found underflanding 
who apprehends the meaning of them diflinctly, 
and. attends to them without prejudice. Can 



this be faid of this propofition, that all the ob- 
jects of our knowledge are ideas in our own 
minds ? I believe, that, to any man uninftruc- 
ted in philofophy, this propofition will appear 
very improbable, if not abfurd. However fcan- 
ty his knowledge may be, he conliders the fun 
and moon, the earth and fea, as objects of it: 
And it will be difficult to perfuade him, that 
thofe objects of his knowledge are ideas in his 
own mind, and have no exiftence when he does 
not think of them. If I may prefume to fpeak 
my own fentiments, I once believed this doc- 
trine of ideas fo firmly, as to embrace the whole 
of Berkeley's fyftem in confequence of it; till, 
finding other confequences to follow from it, 
which gave me more uneafinefs than the want of 
a material world, it came into my mind, more 
than forty years ago, to put the queftion, What 
evidence have I for this doctrine, that all the 
objects of my knowledge are ideas in my own 
mind ? From that time to the prefent, I have 
been candidly and impartially, as I think, feek- 
ing for the evidence of this principle, but can 
find none, excepting the authority of Philofo- 

We fhall have occafion to examine its evi- 
dence afterwards. I would at prefent only ob- 
ferve, that all the arguments brought by Ber^ 
keley againft the exiftence of a material world 
are grounded upon it ; and that he has not at- 
Q^2 tempted 


tempted to give any evidence for it, but takes it 
for granted, as other Philofophers had done be- 
fore him. 

But fuppofing this principle to be true, Ber- 
keley's fyftem is impregnable. No demonftra- 
tion can be more evident than his reafoning from 
it. Whatever is perceived is an idea, and an 
idea can only exift in a mind. It has no exift- 
ence when it is not perceived ; nor can there be 
any thing like an idea, but an idea. 

So fenfible he was, that it required no labo- 
rious reafoning to deduce his fyftem from the prin- 
ciple laid down, that he was afraid of being 
thought needlefsly prolix in handling the fubjecl, 
and makes an apology for it. Princ. § 11. " To 
" what purpofe is it," fays he, " to dilate, upon 
" that which may be demonftrated, with the ut- 
6( moft evidence, in a line or two, to any one who 
" is capable of the leaft reflection." But though 
his demonftration might have been comprehend- 
ed in a line or two, he very prudently thought, 
than an opinion, which the world would be apt 
to look upon as a monfter of abfurdity, would 
not be able to make its way at once, even by 
the force of a naked demonftration. He ob- 
ierves juftly, Dial. 2. " That though a demon- 
P ftration be never fo well grounded, and fairly 
" propofed, yet, if there is, withal, a ftrain of 
" prejudice, or a wrong bias on the underftand- 
W ing, can it be expected to perceive clearly, 

" and 


" and adhere firmly to the truth ? No; there is 
" need of time and pains ; the attention muft 
" be awakened and detained, by a frequent re- 
" petition of the fame thing, placed often in 
" the fame, often in different lights.*' 

It was therefore neceffary to dwell upon it, 
and turn it on all fides till it became familiar ; 
to confider all its confequences, and to obviate 
every prejudice and prepoffeffion that might 
hinder its admittance. It was even a matter of 
fome difficulty to fit it to common language, fo 
far as to enable men to fpeak and reafon about 
it intelligibly. Thofe who have entered feriouf- 
ly into Berkeley's fyitem, have found, after 
all the ailiftance which his writings give, that, 
time and practice are neceffary to acquire the 
habit of fpeaking and thinking diftinctly upon it. 

Berkeley forefaw the oppofition that would 
be made to his fyftem, from two different quar- 
ters ; firft ■> from the Philofopers ; and, fecondly, 
from the vulgar, who are led by the plain dic- 
tates of nature. The firft he had the courage to 
oppofe openly and avowedly ; the fecond he 
dreaded much more, and therefore takes a great 
deal of pains, and, I think, ufes fome art, to court 
into his party. This is particularly obfervable in 
his Dialogues. He fets out with a declaration,, 
-.Dial. 1. " That, of late, he had quitted feveral 
*' of the fublime notions he had got in the fchools 
*' of the Philofophers for vulgar opinions," and 
Q^ 3 allures 

246 ESSAY II. [CHA?. 10, 

affures Hylas, his fellow dialogift, « That, 
" fince this revolt from metaphyfical notions to 
" the plain dictates of nature, and common fenfe, 
" he found his underftanding ftrangely enlight- 
" ened ; fo that he could now eafily comprehend 
" a great many things, which before were all 
" myflery and riddle." Pref. to Dial. " If his 
" principles are admitted for true, men will be 
" reduced from paradoxes to common fenfe." 
At the fame time, he acknowledges, " That they 
" carry with them a great oppofition to the pre- 
" judices of Philofopers, which have fo far pre- 
" vailed againft the common fenfe and natural 
" notions of mankind." 

When Hylas objeds to him, Dial. 3. " You 
" can never perfuade me Philonous, that the 
" denying of matter or corporeal fubftance is not 
" repugnant to the univerfal fenfe of mankind ;" 
he anfwers, " I wifh both our opinions were 
Ai fairly ftated, and fubmitted to the judgment 
*', of men who had plain common fenfe, without 
" the prejudices of a learned education. Let me 
" be reprefented as one who trufts his fenfes, 
*' who thinks he knows the things he fees and 
" feels, and entertains no doubt of their exift- 
" ence. — If by material fubftance is meant only 
*' fenfible body, that which is feen and felt, (and 
" the unphilofophical part of the world, I dare 
U fay, mean no more), then I am more certain of 
6i matter's exiftence than you or any other Phi- 

." lofopher 


" lofopher pretend to be. If there be any thing 
" which makes the generality of mankind averfe 
" from the notions I efpoufe, it is a mifapprehen- 
" fion that I deny the reality of fenfible things : 
" But as it is you who are guilty of that and not 
" I, it follows, that, in truth, their averfion is 
" againft your notions, and not mine. — I am 
" content to appeal to the common fenfe of the 
" world for the truth of my notion. — -I am of a 
" vulgar caft, fimple enough to believe my 
" fenfes, and to leave things as I find them. — I 
" cannot, for my life, help thinking that fnow 
" is white, and fire hot." 

When Hylas is at laft entirely converted, he 
obferves to Philonous, " After all, the contro- 
" verfy about matter, in the Uriel: acceptation of 
" it, lies altogether between you and the Philo- 
" fophers, whofe principles, I acknowledge, are 
" not near fo natural, or fo agreeable to the com- 
" mon fenfe of mankind, and Holy Scripture, as 
" yours." Philonous obferves in the end, 
" That he does not pretend to be a fetter up of 
" new notions, his endeavours tend only to unite, 
" and to place in a clearer light, that truth which 
" was before fhared between the vulgar and the 
" Philofophers ; the former being of opinion, 
" that thofe things they immediately perceive 
" are the real things ; and the latter, that the 
" things immediately perceived are ideas which 
" exift only in the mind ; which two things put 
Q^4 " together 

248 ESSAY IX. [CHAP. 10, 

" together do, in effect, conftitute the fubftance 
" of what he advances :" And he concludes by 
obferving, '* That thofe principles, which at firft 
" view lead to fcepticifm, purfued to a certain 
" point, bring men back to common fenfe." 

Thefe pafiages fhow fufficiently the author's 
concern to reconcile his fyftem to the plain dic- 
tates of nature and common fenfe, while he ex- 
preffes no concern to reconcile it to the received 
doctrines of Philofophers. He is fond to take 
part with the vulgar againft the Philofophers, 
and to vindicate common fenfe againft their inno- 
vations. What pity is it that he did not carry 
this fufpicion of the doctrine of Philofophers fo 
far as to doubt of that philofophical tenet on 
which his whole fyftem is built, to wit, that the 
things immediately perceived by the fenfes are 
ideas which exift only in the mind ! 

After all, it feems no eafy matter to make the 
vulgar opinion and that of Berkeley to meet. 
And to accomplifh this, he feems to me to draw 
each out of its line towards the other, not with- 
out fome ftraining. 

The vulgar opinion he reduces to this, that 
the very things which we perceive by our fenfes 
do really exift. This he grants : For thefe things, 
fays he, are ideas in our minds, or complexions 
of ideas, to which we give one name, and confider 
as one thing ; thefe are the immediate objects of 
fenfe, and thefe do really exift. As to the notion, 



that thofe things have an abfolute external exi- 
ftence, independent of being perceived by any 
mind, he thinks that this is no notion of the vul- 
gar, but a refinement of Philofophers ; and that 
the notion of material fubftance, as zfubjlratum, 
or fupport of that collection of fenfible qualities 
to which we give the name of an apple or a me- 
lon, is likewife an invention of Philofophers, and 
is not found with the vulgar till they are inftruc- 
ted by Philofophers. The fubftance not being 
an object of fenfe, the vulgar never think of it \ 
or, if they are taught the ufe of the word, they 
mean no more by it but that collection of fen- 
lible qualities which they, from finding them 
conjoined in nature, have been accuftomed to 
call by one name, and to confider as one thing. 

Thus he daws the vulgar opinion near to his 
own ; and, that he may meet it half way, he 
acknowledges, that material things have a real 
existence out of the mind of this or that person ; 
but the queftion, fays he, between the materia- 
lift and me, is, Whether they have an abfolute 
exiftence diftinct from their being perceived by 
God, and exterior to all minds? This, indeed, he 
fays, fome Heathens and Philofophers have af- 
firmed -, but whoever entertains notions of the 
Deity, fuitable to the Holy Scripture, will be of 
another opinion. 

But here an objection occurs, which it requi- 
red all his ingenuity to anfwer. It is this . The 



ideas in my mind cannot be the fame with the 
ideas of any other mind ; therefore, if the objects 
I perceive be only ideas, it is impoffible that the 
objects I perceive can exift any where, when I 
do not perceive them \ and it is impoffible that 
two or more minds can perceive the fame object. 

To this Berkeley anfwers, that this objection 
preffes no lefs the opinion of the materialift Phi- 
lofopher than his : But the difficulty is, to make 
his opinion coincide with the notions of the vul- 
gar, who are firmly perfuaded, that the very 
identical objects which they perceive, continue 
to exift when they do not perceive them ; and 
who are no lefs firmly perfuaded, that when ten 
men look at the fun or the moon, they all fee the 
fame individual object. , 

To reconcile this repugnancy, he obferves, 
Dial. 3. " That if the term fame be taken in the 
" vulgar acceptation, it is certain, (and not at 
" all repugnant to the principles he maintains,) 
" that different perfons may perceive the fame 
" thing ; or the fame thing or idea exift in dif- 
" ferent minds. Words are of arbitrary impo- 
" lition ; and fince men are ufed to apply the 
" word fa?7ie, where no distinction or variety is 
" perceived, and* he does not pretend to alter 
" their perceptions, it follows, that as men have 
" faid before, feveral Jaw the fame thing; fo 
" they may, upon like occafions, 'ftill continue 
" to ufe the fame phrafe without any deviation, 

" either 


" either from propriety of language or the truth 
" of things : But if the term fame be ufed in 
" the acceptation of Philofophers, who pretend 
" to an abftracled notion of identity, then, 
'* according to their fundry definitions of this 
" term, (for it is not yet agreed wherein that 
" philofophic identity confifts,) it may or may 
" not be poffible for divers perfons to perceive 
" the fame thing : But whether Philofophers (hall 
" think fit to call a thing the fame or no, is, I 
" conceive, of fmall importance. Men may dif- 
w pute about identity and diverfity, without any 
" real difference in their thoughts and opinions, 
•' abftracted from names." 

Upon the whole, I apprehend that Berkeley 
has carried this attempt to reconcile his fyftem to 
the vulgar opinion further than reafon fupports 
him : and he was no doubt tempted to do fo, from 
a juft appreheniion that, in a controverfy of this 
kind, the common fenfe of mankind is the moil 
formidable antagonift. 

Berkeley has employed much pains and in- 
genuity to fhow that his fyftem, if received and 
believed, would not be attended with thofe bad 
confequences in the conduct, of life which fuper- 
ficial thinkers may be apt to impute to it. His 
fyftem does not take away or make any alteration 
upon out* pleafures or our pains : Our fenfations, 
whether agreeable or difagreeable, are the fame 
upon his fyftem as upon any other. Thefe are 



real things, and the only things that intereft us. 
They are produced in us according to certain 
laws of nature, by which our conduct will be 
directed in attaining the one, and avoiding the 
other : And it is of no moment to us, whether 
they are produced immediately by the operation 
of fome powerful intelligent being upon our 
minds, or by the mediation of fome inanimate 
being which we call matter. 

The evidence of an all-governing mind, fo far 
from being weakened, feems to appear even in 
a more linking light upon his hypothecs, than 
upon the common one. The powers which 
inanimate matter is fuppofed to poffefs, have al- 
ways been the ftrong hold of Atheifts, to which 
they had recourfe in defence of their fyftem. 
This fortrefs of atheifm muft be moll effectual- 
ly overturned, if there is no fuch thing as mat- 
ter in the univerfe. In all this the Biihop rea- 
fons juftly and acutely. But there is one un- 
comfortable confequence of his fyftem, which 
he feems not to have attended to, and from which 
it will be found difficult, if at all poffible, to 
guard it. 

The confequence, I mean, is this, that, al- 
though it leaves us fufficient evidence of a fu- 
preme intelligent mind, it feems to take away all 
the evidence we have of other intelligent beings 
like ourfelves. What I call a father, a brother, 
or a friend, is only a parcel of ideas in my own 

mind; ' 


mind ; and being ideas in my mind, they can- 
not poffibly have that relation to another mind 
which they have to mine, any more than the 
pain felt by me can be the individual pain felt 
by another. I can find no principle in Berke- 
ley's fyftem, which affords me even probable 
ground to conclude, that there are other intelli- 
gent beings, like myfelf, in the relations of father, 
brother, friend, or fellow-citizen. I am left alone, 
as the only creature of God in the univerfe, in 
that forlorn flate of egoifm, into which it is faid 
fome of the difciples of Des Cartes were 
brought by his philofophy. 

Of all the opinions that have ever been ad- 
vanced by Philolbphers, this of Bifhop Berke- 
ley, that there is no material world, feems the 
ftrangeft, and the mod apt to bring philofophy 
into ridicule with plain men, who are guided by 
the dictates of nature and common fenfe. And 
it will not, I apprehend, be improper to trace 
fhis progeny of the doctrine of ideas from its ori- 
gin, and to obferve its gradual progreis, till it ac- 
quired fuch ftrength, that a pious and learned 
Bifhop had the boldnefs to uiher it into the 
world, as demonitrable from the principles of 
philofophy univerfally received, and as an ad- 
mirable expedient for the advancement of know- 
ledge, n f r h defenc of rel gion. 

During the eign of the Peripatetic philofophy, 
men were little cifpofed to doubt, and much to 


254 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 10. 

dogmatize. The exiftence of the objects of fenfe 
was held as a firft principle •, and the received doc- 
trine was, that the fenfible fpecies or idea is the 
very form of the external object, juft feparated 
from the matter of it, and fent into the mind 
that perceives it ; fo that we find no appearance 
of fcepticifm about the exiftence of matter un- 
der that philofophy. 

Des Cartes taught men to doubr even of 
thofe things that had been taken for firft prin- 
ciples. He rejected the doctrine of fpecies or 
ideas coming from objects ; but ftill maintained, 
that what we immediately perceive is not the 
external object, but an idea or image of it in our 
mind. This led fome of his difciples into egoifm, 
and to difbelieve the exiftence of every creature 
in the univerfe but themfelves and their own 

But Des Cartes himfelf, either from dread 
of the cenfure of the Church, which he took 
great care not to provoke, or to fhun the ridi- 
cule of the world, which might have crufhed 
his fy Item at once, as it did that of the Egoifts ; 
or, perhaps, from inward conviction, was re- 
folved to fupport the exiftence of matter. To do 
this confiftently with his principles, he found 
himfelf obliged to have recourfe to arguments 
that are far-fetched, and not very cogent. Some- 
times he argues, that our fenfes are given us by 
God, who is no deceiver ; and therefore we 



ought to believe their teftimony. But this argu- 
ment is weak ; becaufe, according to his prin- 
ciples, our fenfes teftify no more but that we 
have certain ideas : And if we draw conclufions 
from this teftimony, which the premifes will 
not fupport, we deceive ourfelves. To give 
more force to this weak argument, he fometimes 
adds, that we have by nature a ftrong propen- 
iity to believe that there is an external world 
correfponding to our ideas. 

Malebranche thought, that this ftrong pro- 
penfity is not a fufficient reafon for believing the 
exiftence of matter ; and that it is to be received 
as an article of faith, not certainly difcoverable 
by reafon. He is aware that faith comes by 
hearing •, and that it may be faid that Prophets, 
Apoftles, and miracles, are only ideas in our 
minds. But to this he anfwers, That though 
thefe things are only ideas, yet faith turns them 
into realities ; and this anfwer, he hopes, will 
fatisfy thofe who are not too morofe. 

It may perhaps feems ftrange, that Locke, 
who wrote fo much about ideas, fhould not fee 
thofe confequences which Berkeley thought fo 
obvioufly deducible from that doctrine. Mr 
Locke furely was not willing that the doctrine 
of ideas mould be thought to be loaded with 
fuch confequences. He acknowledges, that the 
exiftence of a material world is not to be recei- 
ved as a firft principle ; nor is it demonftrable ; 


256 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 10. 

but he offers the beft arguments for it he can ; 
and fupplies the weaknefs of his arguments by 
this obfervation, that we have fuch evidence as 
is fufficient to direct us in purfuing the good, 
and avoiding the ill we may receive from exter- 
nal things, beyond which we have no concern. 

There is, indeed, a fingle paifage in Locke's 
Effay, which may lead one to conjecture, that 
he had a glimpie of that fyftem which Berke- 
ley afterwards advanced, but thought proper to 
fupprefs it within his own breaft. The paifage 
is in book 4. chap. 10. where, having proved 
the existence of an eternal intelligent mind, he 
comes to anfwer thofe who conceive that matter 
alfo muit be eternal ; becaufe we cannot con- 
ceive how it could be made out of nothing : 
And having obferved that the creation of minds 
requires no lefs power than the creation of mat- 
ter, he adds what follows : " Nay, poffibly, if 
u we could emancipate ourfelves from vulgar 
'* notions, and raife our thoughts, as far as they 
*■' would reach, to a clofer contemplation of 
" things, we might be able to aim at fome dim 
" and feeming conception, how matter might at 
*' firflbe made, and begin to exift by the power of 
" that eternal firft Being ; but to give beginning 
" and being to a fpirit, would be found a more 
" inconceivable effect: of omnipotent power. 
" But this being what would perhaps lead us too 
« far from the notions on which the philofophy 

" now 


" now in the world is built, it would not be 
" pardonable to deviate fo far from them, or to 
" inquire, fo far as grammar itfelf would autno- 
" rife, if the common fettled opinion oppofes it; 
" efpecially in this place, where the received 
" doctrine ferves well enough to our prefent pur- 
" pbfe." 

It appears from this paffage, firjl, That Mr 
Locke had fome fyftem in his mind, perhaps 
not fully digefted, to which we might be led, 
by railing our thoughts to a clofer contempla- 
tion of things, and emancipating them from vul- 
gar notions. Secondly, That this fyftem would 
lead fo far from the notions on which the philo- 
fophy now in the world is built, that he thought 
proper to keep it within his own breaft. Third- 
ly, That it might be doubted whether this fyf- 
tem differed fo far from the common fettled opi- 
nion in reality, as it feemed to do in words. 
Fourthly, By this fyftem, we might pofiibly be 
enabled to aim at fome dim and feeming con- 
ception how matter might at fir ft be made and 
begin to exift ; but it would give no aid in con- 
ceiving how a fpirit might be made. Thefe are 
the characleriftics of that fyftem which Mr 
Locke had in his mind, and thought it prudent 
to fupprefs. May they not lead to a probable 
conjecture, that it was the fame, or fomething 
iimilar to that of Bifhop Berkeley ? According 
to BERKELEY'sTyftem, God's creating the mate- 

Vol. I. R rial 

->S z 5 s a y ::. [:ha?. ir. 

~:il ~::li z: zzz'z z- zzz:e. zr.t2.zi n: zz;:e b . z 
tziz be zezreez rr;zz dzz; izzze. :: prcducc 
ide;ii zz. zde zr.izii :: zzi:e izizi:?. :z :zz: zrder, 
an d according to thofe rules, which we call the 
laws z: Nature. This, indeed, rezzivez all dif- 
zzz.izz iz ::z:ezzzc z:~ zzzrzer ~zs zrezzed : 
i~i Szzzzzzzz d-:-e.5 z:~. :z:i :: :zze zzzize :: :ze 
iL-izzi~t :: zzs z-zzezz :z :zz: z;z:zzz But 
his ijzzezz gives no aid in conieivizr how a ipirit 
zzzy b-e zi2.Lt. I: zpzezrz. zzerezhze. izz: every 

lzz: ij-y.t-n ~z::z he zzd :z zz zz:zd. ::: 
zz_zz: i: przdez: :: zzppzezs. »=llie= ezzdziy 
v . ::"z zze z zezz :: Bi:.zi:.:. If ve zdd :z 
thii. :zz: Bzzzzzzzt's z zezz f:„:-r ; hr:zz Mr 
Id ; i z z z z • " . r v " " ■ . i _ : z z . e z z e z - e . i " 1 1 1 zi i 
zez.:z-Z.e:: ::z;:z:zze. :::z~. :ze zzz„j.e z:~ 
zu:*ed, :hz: be — zi z:: zz_ vz:e :: zzz: zizz'e- 
qzez:e. bat left it to thofe who Local d come af- 
ter him t : cany his principles their full length, 
vrhez :ze" fzzuid zv ::~e ze ze::e: zzzbbzzed, 
zzd idle :: deir :de ~z : :'z :: :de.: :zz :zzizz ::- 
vulgar notions. Mi Nbaais, ia his Efl^y to- 
wards the theory :: dze ideal or intelligible 
~::id. pzdhzzed zz : - ::. zzz^z. zzz: ze zzz- 
:ez:zh ~ ::id i; zz: zz :b e:b :: ez :e ; becaufe 
zezzzzizz is ~::z:z zz zzd zzs z: ibjezh. I:s 
exzizezze. :deref::e. ze zh~E. z z. ::debz:z :: 

W • * w «-. 



From this detail we may learn, that the doc- 
trine of ideas, as it was new modelled by Des 
Cartes, looked with an unfriendly afpecr. upon 
the material world ; and although Philofophers 
were very unwilling to give up either, they 
found it a very difficult talk to reconcile them 
to each other. In this ftate of things Berke- 
ley, I think, is reputed the firft who had the 
caring resolution to give up the material world 
altogether, as a lacrince to the received phiiolo- 
phy of ideas. 

But we ought not in this hiitorical iketch to 
omit an author of rhr inferior name, Arthur 
Collier, Rector of Langford Magna, near 5a- 
ram. He publifhed a book in 171 3, which he 
calls Claim UnvuerfaUs ; or. anew Enquiry after 
Truth 1 being a demonftrati n of the non-exif- 
tence 01 impofllbility of an external world. His 
irguments are the fame in fubftance with Ber- 
keley's; and he appear- to underhand the 
whole ftrength of his cauie. Though he is not 
deficient in metaphyseal acutenefs, his ftyle is 
reeable, being full c: conceits, of new coin- 
ed word;, fcholaftic terms, and perplexed fen- 
tences. He appears to he well acquainted with 
Dzs Caotzs, Malebranche, and Norris, as 
well as with Aristotle and the fchc almen : But, 
what is very ftrange, i: does not appear that he 
had ever heard of Locke's ErTay, which 
been publifhed twenty-four years, :r of Berke- 

R 2 ley's 

d6o ESSAY II. [chap. 10. 

ley's Principles of Knowledge, which had been 
published three years. 

He fays, he had been ten years firmly convin- 
ced of the non-exiftence of an external world, 
before he ventured to publifh his book. He is 
far from thinking as Berkeley does, that the vul- 
gar are of his opinion. If his book mould make 
any converts to his fyflem, (of which he expref- 
fes little hope, though he has fupported it by 
nine demonftrations,) he takes pains to mow 
that his difciples, notwithiianding their opinion, 
may, with the unenlightened, fpeak of material 
things in the common ilyle. He himfelf had 
fcruples of confcience about this for fome time ; 
and if he had not got over them, he muft have 
ihut his lips for ever : But he considered, that 
God himfelf has uled this flyle in fpeaking to 
men in the Holy Scripture, and has thereby 
fanctined it to all the faithful ; and that to the 
pure all things are pure. He thinks his opinion 
may be of great ufe, efpecially in religion ; and 
applies it in particular, to put an end to the con- 
troverfy about Christ's prefence in the facra- 

I have taken the liberty to give this fhort ac- 
count of Collier's book, becaule I believe it is 
rare, and little known. I have only feen one co- 
py of it, which is in the Univerlity library of 


bishop Berkeley's sentiments of ideas. 261 


Bijhop Berkeley's Sentiments of the Nature of 

I Pass over the fentiments of Bifliop Berke- 
ley, with refpect to abftract ideas, and with 
refpe<9t to fpace and time, as things which may 
more properly be confidered in another place. 
But I mult take notice of one part of his fyftem, 
wherein he feems to have deviated from the 
common opinion about ideas. 

Though he fets out in his Principles of Know- 
ledge by telling us, that it is evident the objects 
of human knowledge are ideas, and builds his 
whole fyftem upon this principle ; yet, in the 
progrefs of it, he finds that there are certain ob- 
jects of human knowledge that are not ideas, 
but things which have a permanent exiftence. 
The objects of knowledge, of which we have no 
ideas, are our own minds, and their various 
operations, other finite minds, and the Supreme 
Mind. The reafon why there can be no ideas 
of fpirits and their operations, the author in- 
forms us is this, That ideas are paffive, inert, 
unthinking beings ; they cannot therefore be the 
image or likenefs of things that have thought, 
and will, and active power ; we have notions of 
R 3 minds, 


minds, and of their operations, but not ideas : 
We know what we mean by thinking, willing, and 
perceiving ; we can reafon about beings endow- 
ed with thofe powers, but we have no ideas of 
them. A fpirit or mind is the only fubftance or 
fupport wherein the unthinking beings or ideas 
can exift ; but that this fubftance which fupports 
or perceives ideas, mould itfelf be an idea, or 
like an idea, is evidently abfurd. 

He obferves further, Princip. feci:. 142. that 
" all relations including an act of the mind, we 
" cannot properly be faid to have an idea, but 
'.* rather a notion of the relations or habitudes 
" between things. But if, in the modern way, 
*' the word idea is extended to fpirits, and rela- 
" tions, and acts, this is, after all, an affair of 
" verbal concern ; yet it conduces to clearnefs 
1' and propriety, that we diftinguifh things very 
" different by different names." 

This is an important part of Berkeley's fy[~ 
tern, and deferves attention. We are led by it 
to divide the objects of human knowledge into 
two kinds : The firft is ideas, which we have 
by our five fenfes ; they have no exiftence when 
they are not perceived, and exift only in the 
minds of thofe who perceive them. The fecond 
kind of objects comprehends fpirits, their acts, 
and the relations and habitudes of things. Of 
thefe we have notions, but no ideas. No idea 
can reprefent them, or have any limilitude to 

them : 

bishop Berkeley's sentiments of ideas. 263 

them : Yet we underftand what they mean, and 
we can fpeak with understanding, and reafon 
about them, without ideas. 

This account of ideas is very different from 
that which Locke has given. In his fyftem, 
we have no knowledge where we have no ideas. 
Every thought mart have an idea for its imme- 
diate object. In Berkeley's, the moft impor- 
tant objects are known without ideas. In 
Locke's fyftem, there are two fources of our 
ideas, fenfation and reflection. In Berkeley's, 
fenfation is the only fource, becaufe of the ob- 
jects of reflection there can be no ideas. We 
know them without ideas. Locke divides our 
ideas into thofe of fub fiances, modes, and rela- 
tions. In Berkeley's fyftem, there are no ideas 
of fubftances, or of relations ; but notions only. 
And even in the clafs of modes, the operations of 
our own minds are things of which we have dif- 
tinct notions ; but no ideas. 

We ought to do the juftice to Malebranche 
to acknowledge, that in this point, as well as in 
many others, his fyftem comes nearer to Berke- 
ley's than the latter feems willing to own. That 
author tells us, that there are four different ways 
in which we come to the knowledge of things. 
To know things by their ideas, is only one of the 
four. He affirms, that we have no idea of ur 
own mind, or any of its modifications : That we 
know thefe things by confcioufnefs, without 
ideas. Whether thefe two acute Philofophers 
R 4 forelaw 


forefaw the confequences that may be drawn from 
the iyftem of ideas, taken in its full extent, and 
which were afterwards drawn by Mr Hume, I 
cannot pretend to fay. If they did, their regard 
to religion was too great to permit them to ad- 
mit thofe confequences, or the principles with 
which they were neceffarily connected. 

However this may be, if there be fo many- 
things that may be apprehended and known 
without ideas, this very naturally fuggefts a 
fcruple with regard to thofe that are left : For 
it may be faid, If we can apprehend and reafon 
about the world of fpirits, without ideas, Is it 
not poffible that we may apprehend and reafon 
about a material world, without ideas ? If con- 
fcioufnefs and reflection furnifh us with notions 
of fpirits, and of their attributes, without ideas, 
May not our fenfcs furniih us with notions of 
bodies and their attributes, without ideas ? 

Berkeley forefaw this objection to his fyf- 
tem, and puts it in the mouth of Hylas, in the 
following words : Dial. 3. Hylas. " If you can 
" conceive the mind of God, without having an 
" idea of it, Why may not I be allowed to con- 
" ceive the exiftence of matter, notwithstanding 
" that I have no idea of it?" The anfwer of 
Philonous is, " You neither perceive matter 
" objectively, as you do an inactive being or 
" idea, nor know it, as you do yourfelf, by a rc- 
" flex act, neither do you immediately appre- 
- c hend it by fimilitude cf the one or the other, 

il nor 

bishop Berkeley's sentiments of ideas. 265 

" nor yet collect it by reafoning from that which 
" you know immediately. All which makes 
" the cafe of matter widely different from that 
" of the Deity.'' 

Though Hylas declares himfelf fatisfied with 
this anfwer, I confefs I am not : Becaufe, if I 
may truft the faculties that God has given me, 
I do perceive matter objectively, that is, fome- 
thing which is extended and folid, which may 
be meafured and weighed, is the immediate ob- 
j eel: of my touch and light. And this object I 
take to be matter, and not an idea. And though 
I have been taught by Philofophers, that what 
I immediately touch is an idea, and not matter ; 
yet I have never been able to difcover this by the 
moil accurate attention to my own perceptions. 

It were to be wilhed, that this ingenious au- 
thor had explained what he means by ideas, as 
diflinguilhed from, notions, The word notion, 
being a word in common language, is well un- 
derftood. AH men mean by it, the conception, 
the apprehenfion, or thought which we have 
of any object of thought. A notion, therefore, 
is an act of the mind conceiving or thinking of 
fome object. The object of thought may be 
either fomething that is in the mind, or fome- 
thing that is not in the mina\ L Jt may be 
fomething that has no exiftence, or fomething 
that did, or does, or mail exiii. But the 
potion which I have of that object, is an act of 



my mind which really exifts while I think of the 
object ; but has no exiftence when I do not 
think of it. The word idea, in popular lan- 
guage, has precifely the fame meaning as the 
word notion. But Philofophers have another 
meaning to the word idea ; and what that mean- 
ing is, I think, is very difficult to fay. 

The whole of Bifhop Berkeley's fyflem de- 
pends upon the diftin&ion between notions and 
ideas ; and therefore it is worth while to find, if 
we are able, what thofe things are which he 
call ideas, as diftinguifhed from notions. 

For this purpole, we may obferve, that he takes 
notice of two kinds of ideas, the ideas of fenfe, and 
the ideas of imagination. " The ideas imprinted 
" on the fenfes by the Author of Nature, he fays, 
" are called real things; and thofe excited in the 
" imagination, being lefs regular, vivid and con- 
*' ftant, are more properly termed ideas, or 
" images of things, which they copy and repre- 
" fent. But then our fenfations, be they never 
" fo vivid and diftinct, are neverthelefs ideas ; 
" that is, they exift in the mind, or are per- 
" ceived by it as truly as the ideas of its own 
" framing. The ideas of fenfe are allowed to 
" have more reality in them ; that is, to be 
" more ftrong, orderly, and coherent, than the 
" creatures of the mind. They are alfo lefs de- 
" pendent on the fpirit, or thinking fubftance 
" which perceives them, in that they are exci- 

" ted 

bishop Berkeley's sentiments of ideas. 267 

" ted by the will of another and more powerful 
" fpirit ; yet ftill they are ideas ; and certainly 
" no idea, whether faint or flrong, can exift, 
" otherwife than in a mind perceiving it." 
Princip. fed. 33. 

From this pafFage we fee, that, by the ideas of 
fenfe, the author means fenfations : And this in- 
deed is evident from many other paflages, of 
which I mall mention a few, Princip. feci:. 5. 
" Light and colours, heat and cold, extenfion 
" and figure, in a word, the things we fee and 
" feel, what are they but fo many fenfations, 
" notions, ideas, or impreflions on the fenfe ; 
" and is it poffible to feparate, even in thought, 
" any of thefe from perception ? For my part, 
" I might as eafily divide a thing from itfelf." 
Seel:. 1 8. " As for our fenfes, by them we have 
" the knowledge only of our fenfations, ideas, or 
" thofe things that are immediately perceived 
" by fenfe ; call them what you will : But they 
" do not inform us that things exift without the 
** mind, or unperceived, like to thofe which are 
" perceived." Seel. 25. " All our ideas, fenfa- 
" tions, or the things which we perceive, by 
" whatever names they may be diftinguifhed, 
" are vifibly inactive ; there is nothing of power 
f or agency included in them." 

This therefore appears certain, that, by the 
ideas of fenfe, the author meant the fenfations 
we have by means of our fenfes. I have endea- 

^68 ESSAY II. [chap. ii. 

voured to explain the meaning of the word fenfa- 
tion, Efiay i. chap. i. and refer to the explica- 
tion there given of it, which appears to me to be 
perfectly agreeable to the fenfe in which Bifhop 
Berkeley ufes it. 

As there can be no notion or thought but in a 
thinking being ; fo there can be no fenfation but 
in a fentient being. It is the act, or feeling of a 
fentient being ; its very efTence confifts in its 
being felt. Nothing can refemble a fenfation, 
but a iimilar fenfation in the fame, or in fome 
other mind. To think that any quality in a 
thing that is inanimate can refemble a fenfation, 
is a great abfurdity. In all this, I cannot but 
agree perfectly with Bifhop Berkeley \ and I 
think his notions of fenfation much more diftinct 
and accurate than Locke's, who thought that 
the. primary qualities of body are refemblances 
of our fenfations, but that the fecondary are not. 

That we have many fenfations by means of 
our external fenfes, there can be no doubt ; and 
if he is pleafed to call thofe ideas, there ought to 
be no difpute about the meaning of a word. But, 
fa;s Bifhop Berkeley, by our fenfes, we have 
the knowledge only of our fenfations or ideas, 
call them which you will. I allow him to call 
them which he will ; but I would have the word 
only in this fentence to be well weighed, becaufe 
a great deal depends upon it. 


bishop Berkeley's sentiments of ideas. i6ty 

For if it be true, that, by our fenfes, we have 
the knowledge of our fenfations only, then his 
fyftem mud be admitted, and the existence of a 
material world rauft be given up as a dream. 
No demonstration can be more invincible than 
this. If we have any knowledge of a material 
world, it muft be by the fenfes : But, by the 
fenfes, we have no knowledge but of our fenfa- 
tions only ; and our fenfations have no refem- 
blance of any thing that can be in a material 
world. The only proposition in this demonilra- 
tion which admits of doubt is, that, by our 
fenfes, we have the knowledge of our fenfations 
only, and of nothing elfe. If there are objects 
of the fenfes which are not fenfations, his aro-u- 
ments do not touch them ; they may be things 
which do not exift in the mind, as all fenfations 
do ; they may be things, of which, by our fenfes, 
we have notions, though no ideas ; juft as, by 
confcioufnefs and reflection, we have notions 
of fpirits, and of their operations, without ideas. 
or fenfations. 

Shall we fay then, that, by our fenfes, we 
have the knowledge of our fenfations only ; 
and that they give us no notion of any thing but 
of our fenfations ? Perhaps this has been the doc- 
trine of Philofophers, and not of Bifhop Berke- 
ley alone, otherwife he would have fupported it 
by arguments. Mr Locke calls all the notions 
we have by our fenfes ideas of fenfation ; and in 


3.J0 ESSAY II. , [CHAP. II, 

this has been very generally followed. Hence 
it feems a very natural inference, that ideas of 
fenfation are fenfations. But Philofophers may 
err : Let us hear the dictates of common fenfe 
upon this point. 

Suppofe I am pricked with a pin, I alk, Is 
the pain I feel, a fenfation ? undoubtedly it is. 
There can be nothing that refembles pain in any 
inanimate being. But I alk again, Is the pin 
a fenfation ? To this queflion I find myfelf un- 
der a neceffity of anfwering, That the pin is not 
a fenfation, nor can have the leaft refemblance 
to any fenfation. The pin has length and thick- 
nefs, and figure and weight. A fenfation can 
have none of thofe qualities. I am not more 
certain that the pain I feel is a fenfation, than 
that the pin is not a fenfation ; yet the pin is an • 
object of fenfe ; and I am as certain that I per- 
ceive its figure and hardnefs by my fenfes, as 
that I feel pain when pricked by it. 

Having faid fo much of the ideas of fenfe in 
Berkeley's fyftem, we are next to confider the 
account he gives of the ideas of imagination. 
Of thefe he fays, Princip. fed. 28. " I find I 
" can excite ideas in my mind at pleafure, and 
" vary and fhift the fcene as oft as I think fit. 
" It is no more than willing ; and flraightway 
" this or that idea arifes in my fancy ; and by 
" the fame power it is obliterated, and makes 
" way for another. This making and unma- 

" king 

bishop Berkeley's sentiments of ideas. 271 

** king of ideas, doth very properly denominate 
" the mind active. This much is certain, and 
" grounded on experience. Our fenfations, he 
" fays, are called real things ; the ideas of ima- 
" gination are more properly termed ideas, or 
" images of things ;" that is, as I apprehend, 
they are the images of our fenfations. It might 
furely be expected, that we mould be well ac- 
quainted with the ideas of imagination, as they 
are of our making ; yet, after all the Bifhop has 
faid about them, i am at a iois to know what 
they are. 

I would obferve, in the Jirjl place, with regard 
to thefe ideas of imagination, that they are not 
fenfations ; for furely fenfation is the work of the 
fenfes, and not of imagination ; and though pain 
be a fenfation, the thought of pain, when I am 
not pained, is no fenfation. 

I obferve, in the fecond place, that I can find 
no distinction between ideas of imagination and 
notions, which the author fays are not ideas. I 
can ealily diftinguifh between a notion and a 
fenfation. It is one thing to fay I have the fen- 
fation of pain. It is another thing to fay I have 
a notion of pain. The laft expreilion fignifies 
no more than that I understand what is meant 
by the word pain. • The firft fignifies that I 
really feel pain. But I can find no diftinction 
between the notion of pain, and the imagina- 
tion of it, or indeed between the notion of any 



thing elfe, and the imagination of it. I can 
therefore give no account of the diftinction 
which Berkeley makes between ideas of ima- 
gination, and notions, which he fays are not 
ideas. They feem to me perfectly to coincide. 

He feems indeed to fay, that the ideas of ima- 
gination differ not in kind from thofe of the 
fenfes, but only in the degree of their regulari- 
ty, vivacity, and conftancy. " They are, fays 
" he, lefs regular, vivid, and conftant." This 
doctrine was afterwards greedily embraced by 
Mr Hume, and makes a main pillar of his fyf- 
tem ; but it cannot be reconciled to common 
fenfe, to which Bifhop Berkeley profeffes a 
great regard. For, according to this doctrine, 
if we compare the ftate of a man racked with 
the gout, with his ftate, when .being at perfect 
eafe, he relates what he has fuffered ; the differ- 
ence of thefe two ftates is only this, that, in the 
laft, the pain is lefs regular, vivid, and conftant, 
than in the ftrft. We cannot poflibly affent to 
this. Every man knows that he can relate the 
pain he fuffered, not only without pain, but with 
pleafure ; and that to fuffer pain, and to think 
of it, are things which totally differ in kind, and 
not in degree only. 

We fee, therefore, upon the whole, that ac- 
cording to this fyftem ; of the molt important 
objects of knowledge, that is, of fpirits, of their 
operations, and of the relations of things, we. 


bishop Berkeley's sentiments of ideas. 273 

have no ideas at all ; we have notions of them, 
but not ideas : The ideas we have are thofe of 
fenfe, and thofe of imagination, The firft are 
the fenfations we have by means of our fenfes, 
whofe exiftence no man can deny, becaufe he 
is confcious of them ; and whofe nature hath 
been explained by this author with great accu- 
racy. As to the ideas of imagination, he hath 
left us much in the dark : He makes them 
images of our fenfations, though, according to 
his own doctrine, nothing can referable a fenfa- 
tion but a fenfation. He feems to think, that 
they differ from fenfations only in the degree 
of their regularity, vivacity, and conftancy : But 
this cannot be reconciled to the experience of 
mankind ; and belides this mark, which cannot 
be admitted, he hath given us no other mark by 
which they may be diftinguifhed from notions : 
Nay, it may be obferved, that the very reaion 
he gives why we can have no ideas of the acts 
of the mind about its ideas, nor of the relations 
of things, is applicable to what he calls ideas of 
imagination. Princip. feci. 142. " We may not, 
" 1 think, firictly be faid to have an idea of 
" an act ive being, or of an action, although we 
" may be faid to have a notion of them. I have 
" fome knowledge or notion of my mind, and its 
u acts about ideas, in as much as I know or un- 
w - derfland what is meant by thefe words. It 
**■ is alfo to be remarked, that all relations in- 
Vol. I. S eluding 

274 ESSAY II. [CHAP*. II. 

" eluding an act of the mind, we cannot fo pro- 
" perly be faid to have an idea, but rather 
" a notion of the relations and habitudes be- 
" tween things." From this it follows, that our 
imaginations are not properly ideas but notions, 
becaufe they include an act of the mind. For he 
tells us, in a pafTage already quoted, that they 
are creatures of the mind, of its own framing, 
and that it makes and unmakes them as it thinks 
fit, and from this is properly denominated active. 
If it be a good reafon why we have not ideas, 
but notions only of relations, becaufe they in- 
clude an act of the mind ; the fame reafon mult 
lead us to conclude, that our imaginations are 
notions and not ideas, fince they are made and 
unmade by the mind as it thinks fit, and from 
this it is properly denominated active. 

When fo much has been written, and fo many 
difputes raifed, about ideas, it were deiirable 
that we knew what they are, and to what cate- 
gory or clafs of beings they belong. In this 
we might expect fatisfaction in the writings of 
Bilhop Berkeley, if any where, confidering 
his known accuracy and precifion in the ufe of 
words; and it is for this reafon that I have 
taken fo much pains to find out what he took 
them to be. 

After all, if I underftand what he calls the 
ideas of ferjfe, they are the fenfations which we 

■ have 

bishop Berkeley's sentiments of ideas. 275 

have by means of our five fenfes ; but they are, 
he fays, lefs properly termed ideas. 

I underftand likewife what he calls notions, 
but they, fays he, are very different from ideas, 
though, in the modern way, often called by that 

The ideas of imagination remain, which are 
moil properly termed ideas, as he fays ; and, 
with regard to thefe, I am ft ill very much in the 
dark. When I imagine a lion or an elephant, 
the lion or elephant is the object imagined. The 
act of the mind, in conceiving that object, is 
the notion, the conception, or imagination of 
the objecl;. If befides the object, and the act 
of the mind about it, there be fomeihing call- 
ed the idea of the objecl, I know not what 
it is. 

If we confult other authors who have treated 
of ideas, we fliall find as little fatisfaction with 
regard to the meaning of this philofophical term. 
The vulgar have adopted it ; but they only 
mean by it the notion or conception we have of 
any object, efpecially our more abflracl or gene- 
ral notions. When it is thus put to fignify the 
operation of the mind about objects, whether in 
conceiving, remembering, or perceiving, it is well 
underftood. But Philofophers will have ideas 
to be the objects of the mind's operations, and 
not the operations themfelves. There is, indeed, 
great variety of objects of thought. We can 
S 2 think 


think of minds, and of their operations, of bo- 
dies, and of their qualities and relations. If 
ideas are not comprehended under any of thefe 
claries, I am at a lofs to comprehend what they 

In ancient philofophy, ideas were faid to be 
immaterial forms, which, according to one fy- 
llem, exifted from all eternity, and, according to 
another, are fent forth from the objects, whofe 
form they are. In modern philofophy, they are 
things in the mind, which are the immediate 
objects of all our thoughts, and which have no 
exiltence when we do not think of them. They 
are called the images, the refemblances, the re- 
prefentatives of external objects of fenfe ; yet 
they have neither colour, nor fmell, nor figure, 
nor motion, nor any fenfible quality. I revere 
the authority of Philofophers, efpecially where 
they are fo unanimous ; but until I can compre- 
hend what they mean by ideas, I mult think and 
fpeak with the vulgar. 

In fenfation, properly fo called, I can diflin- 
guifh two things, the mind or fentient being, and 
the fenfation. Whether the laft is to be called a 
feeling or an operation, I difpute not ; but it has 
no object diftinct from the fenfation itfelf. If 
in fenfation there be a third thing, called an 
idea, I know not what it is. 

In perception, in remembrance, and in con- 
ception, or imagination, I diftinguifh thr&e 


bishop Berkeley's sentiments of ideas. 277 

things, the mind that o'perates, the operation of 
the mind, and the object of that operation. That 
the objecl perceived is one thing, and the per- 
ception of that object another, I am as certain as 
I can be of any thing. The fame may be faid 
of conception, of remembrance, of love and ha- 
tred, of defi re and averfion. In all thefe, the 
act of the mind about its object is one thing, the 
objecl is another thing. There mull be an ob- 
jecl:, real or imaginary, diftinct from the opera- 
tion of the mind about; it. Now, if in thefe o- 
perations the idea be a fourth thing different 
from the three I have mentioned, I know not 
what it is, nor have been able to learn from all 
that has been written about ideas. And if the 
doctrine of Philofophers about ideas confounds 
any two of thefe things, which I have mention- 
ed as diftincl: ; if, for example, it confounds the 
object perceived with the perception of that ob- 
jecl:, and reprefents them as one and the fame 
thing, fuch doctrine is altogether repugnant to 
all that I am able to difcover of the operations 
of my own mind ; and it is repugnant to the 
common fenfe of mankind, expreffed in the ftruc- 
ture of all languages. 


278 ESSAY II. [CHAF. 12. 


Of the Sentiments of Mr Hume. 

r PWO volumes of the Treatife of Human Na- 
JL ture were publifhed in 1739, and the third 
in 1740. The doctrine contained in this Trea- 
tife was publifhed anew in a more popular form 
in Mr Hume's Philofophical EfTays, of which 
there have been various editions. What other 
authors, from the time of Des Cartes, had call- 
ed ideas, this author diftinguifhed into two kinds, 
to wit, impreffwns and ideas \ comprehending 
under the nrft, all our fenfations, paffions, and 
emotions; and under the laft, the faint images 
of thefe, when we remember or imagine them. 

He fets out with this, as a principle that need- 
ed no proof, and of which therefore he offers 
none, That all the perceptions of the human 
mind refolve themfelves into thefe two kinds, im- 
prefjions and ideas.. 

As this propoiition is the foundation upon 
which the whole of Mr Hume's fyftem refhs, 
and from which it is raifed with great acutenefs 
indeed, and ingenuity, it were to be wifhed that 
he had told us upon what authority this funda- 
mental propofition refls. But we are left to 



guefs, whether it is held forth as a firft prin- 
ciple, which has its evidence in itfelf ; or whe- 
ther it is to be received upon the authority of 

Mr Locke had taught us, that all the imme- 
diate objects of human knowledge are ideas in 
the mind. Bifhop Berkeley, proceeding upon 
this foundation, demonftrated very ealily, that 
there is no material world. And he thought, 
that, for the purpofes both of phiiofophy and re- 
ligion, we mould find no lofs, but great benefit, 
in the want of it. But the Bifhop, as became 
his order, was unwilling to give up the world of 
fpirits. He faw very well, that ideas are as un- 
fit to reprefent fpirits as they are to reprefent 
bodies. Perhaps he faw, that if we perceive on- 
ly the ideas of fpirits, we (hall find the fame dif- 
ficulty in inferring their real exiftence from the 
exiftence of their ideas, as w 7 e find in inferring 
the exiftence of matter from the idea of it ; and 
therefore, while he gives up the material world 
in favour of the fyftem of ideas, he gives up one 
half of that fyftem in favour of the world of fpi- 
rits ; and maintains, that we can, without ideas, 
think, and fpeak, and reafon, intelligibly about 
fpirits, and what belongs to them. 

Mr Hume fhows no fuch partiality in favour 
of the world of fpirits. He adops the theory of 
ideas in its full extent ; and, in confequence, 
(hews that there is neither matter nor mind in 

S 4 the 

l8o ESSAY II. [CHAP. 12* 

the univerfe ; nothing but impreflions and ideas. 
What we call a body, is only a bundle of fenia- 
i.ions ; and what we call the mind, is only a 
bundle of thoughts, paffions, and emotions, with- 
out any fubjecl:. 

Some ages hence, it will perhaps be looked 
upon as a curious anecdote, that two Philofo- 
phers of the 18th century, of very diftinguifbed 
rank, were led by a philoibphical hypothefis ; 
one, to difbelteve the exiftence of matter ; and 
the other, to difbelieve the exiftence both of mat- 
ter and of mind. Such an anecdote may not be 
uninitructive, if it prove a warning to Philofo- 
phers to beware of hypothefes, efpecially when 
they lead to conclusions which contradict the 
principles, upon which all men of common fenfe 
muft act. in common life. 

The Egoifls, whom we mentioned before, 
were left far behind by Mr Hume ; for they be- 
lieved their own exiftence, and perhaps alfo the 
exiftence of a Deity. But Mr Hume's fyftem 
does not even leave him ajelf to claim the pro- 
perty of his impreffions and ideas. 

A fyftem of coniequences, however abfurd, 
acutely and juftly drawn from a few principles, 
in very abftracl: matters, is of real utility in fci- 
ence, and may be made fubfervient to real know- 
ledge. This merit Mr Hume's metaphyseal 
writings have in a great degree. 



We had occafion before to obferve, that, fince 
the time of Des Cartes, Philofophers, in treat- 
ing of the powers of the mind, have in many in- 
ilances confounded things, which the common 
fenfe of mankind has always led them to diftin- 
guifh, and which have different names in all lan- 
guages. Thus, in the perception of an external 
object, all languages diftinguifh three things, the 
mind that perceives, the operation of that mind ; 
which is called perception, and the object percei- 
ved. Nothing appears more evident to a mind 
untutored by philofophy, than that thefe three 
are diftinct things, which, though related, ought 
never to be confounded. The ftructure of all 
languages fuppofes this distinction, and is built 
upon it. Philofophers have introduced a fourth 
thing in this procefs, which they call the idea of 
the object, which is fuppofed to be an image, or 
reprefentative of the object, and is faid to be the 
immediate object. The vulgar know nothing 
about this idea ; it is a creature of philofophy, 
iucroduced to account for, and explain, the man- 
ner of our perceiving external objects. 

It is pleafant to obferve, that while Philofo- 
phers, for more than a century, have been la- 
bouring, by means of ideas, to explain percep- 
tion, and the other operations of the mind, thofe 
ideas have by degrees ufurped the place of per- 
ception, object, and even of the mind itfelf, ai.d 
have fupplanted thoie very things they were 


282 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 12. 

brought to explain. Des Cartes reduced all 
the operations of the underltanding to percep- 
tion ; and what can be more natural to thofe 
who believe that they are only different modes 
of perceiving ideas in our own minds. Locke 
confounds ideas fometimes with the perception 
of an external object, fometimes with the exter- 
nal object itfelf, In Berkeley's fyftem, the 
idea is the only object, and yet is often confound- 
ed with the perception of it. But in Hume's, 
the idea or the impreffion, which is only a more 
lively idea, is mind, perception, and object, all 
in one : So that, by the term perception in Mr 
Hume's fyftem, we mult underitand the mind it- 
felf, all its operations, both of underltanding and 
will, and all the objects of thefe operations. Per- 
ception taken in this fenfe he divides into our 
more lively perceptions, which he calls impref- 
Jions, and the lefs lively, which he calls ideas. 
To prevent repetition, I mult here refer the 
reader to fome remarks made upon this divilion, 
Eflay i. chap. i. in the explication there given 
of the words perceive, objeSi, imprejjion. 

Philofophers have differed very much with re- 
gard to the origin of our ideas, or the fources 
whence they are derived. The Peripatetics held, 
that all knowledge is derived originally from the 
fenfes; and this ancient doctrine feems to be re- 
vived by fome late French Philofophers, and by 
Dr Hartley and Dv Priestly among the Bri- 



tifh. Des Cartes maintained, that many of 
our ideas are innate. Locke oppofed the doc- 
trine of innate ideas with much zeal, and em- 
ploys the whole firfl book of his Effay againft it. 
But he admits two different fources of ideas ; the 
operations of our external fenfes, which he calls 
fenfation, by which we get all our ideas of body, 
and its attributes % and reflection upon the opera- 
tions of our minds, by which we get the ideas of 
every thing belonging to the mind. The main 
defign of the fecond book of Locke's Effay, is 
to fhow, that all our limple ideas, without excep- 
tion, are derived from the one or the other, or 
both of thefe fources. In doing this, the author 
is led into fome paradoxes, although, in general, 
• he is not fond of paradoxes: And had he fore- 
feen all the confequences that may be drawn 
from his account of the origin " of our ideas, he 
would probably have examined it more care- 

Mr Hume adopts Locke's account of the ori- 
gin of our ideas, and from that principle infers, 
that we have no idea of fubftance corporeal or 
fpiritual, no idea of power, no other idea of a 
caufe, but that it is fomething antecedent, and 
conftantly conjoined to that which we call its 
effect *, and, in a word, that we can have no idea 
of any thing but our fenfations, and the opera- 
tions of mind we are confcious of. 


284 ESSAY II. [CHAP. Hi 

This author leaves no power to the mind in 
framing its ideas and impreffions ; and no won- 
der, lince he holds that we have no idea of power ; 
and the mind is nothing but that fucceffion of 
impreffions and ideas of which we are intimately 

He thinks, therefore, that our impreffions arife 
from unknown caufes, and that the impreffions 
are the caufes of their correfponding ideas. By 
this he means no more but that they always go 
before the ideas ; for this is all that is necelfary 
to conftitute the relation of caufe and effect. 

As to the order and fucceffion of our ideas, he 
holds it to be determined by three laws of at- 
traction or afTociation, which he takes to be origi- 
nal properties of the ideas, by which they attract, 
as it were, or affociate themfelves with other ideas 
which either refemble them, or which have been 
contiguous to them in time and place, or to which 
they have the relations of caufe and effect. 

We may here obferve by the way, that the 
laft of thefe three laws feems to be included in 
the fecond, iince caufation, according to him, 
implies no more than contiguity in time and 

It is not my defign at prefent to mow how Mr 
Hume, upon the principles he has borrowed 
from Locke and Berkeley, has, with great 
acutenefs, reared a fyftem of abfolute fcepticifm, 
which leaves no rational ground to believe any 



one propofition, rather than its contrary : My in- 
tention in this place being only to give a detail 
of the fentiments of Philofophers concerning 
ideas fince they became an object of fpeculation s 
and concerning the manner of our perceiving ex- 
ternal objects by their means. 


Of the Sentiments of Antony Arnauld. 

IN this fketch of the opinions of Philofophers 
concerning ideas, we mull not omit Antony 
Arnauld, doctor of the Sorbonne, who, in the 
year 1683, publifhed his book of True and Falfe 
Ideas, in oppofition to the fyftem of Male- 
branche, before mentioned. It is only about 
ten years fince I could find this book, and I be- 
lieve it is rare. 

Though Arnauld wrote before Locke, 
Berkeley, and Hume, I have referved to the 
laft place fome account of his fentiments, be- 
caufe it feems difficult to determine whether he 
adopted the common theory of ideas, or whether 
he is lingular in rejecting it altogether as a fic- 
tion of Philofophers. 

The controverfy between Malebranche and 
^f.nauld neceflarily led them to confider what 


286 essay ii. [chap. 13. 

kind of things ideas are, a point upon which o- 
ther Philofophers had very generally been iilent. 
Both of them profeffed the doctrine univerfally 
received, that we perceive not material things 
immediately, that it is their ideas that are the 
immediate objects of our thought, and that it is 
in the idea of every thing that we perceive its 

It is neceffary to premife, that both thefe au- 
thors ufe the word perception, as Des Cartes 
had done before them, to fignify every operation 
of the underftanding. " To think, to know, to 
" perceive, are the fame thing," fays Mr Ar- 
nauld, chap. 5. def. 2. It is likewife to be ob- 
ferved, that the various operations of the mind 
are by both called modifications of the mind. 
Perhaps they were led into this phrafe by the 
Carteiian doctrine, that the effence of the mind 
conlifls in thinking, as that of body confifts in 
extention. I apprehend, therefore, that when 
they make fenfation, perception, memory, and 
imagination, to be various modifications of the 
mind, they mean no more, but that thefe are 
things which can only exifl in the mind as their 
fubject. We exprefs the fame thing, by calling 
them various modes of thinking, or various ope- 
rations of the mind. 

The things which the mind perceives, fays 
Malebranche, are of two kinds. They are 



either in the mind itfelf, or they are external to 
it. The things in the mind, are all its different 
modifications, its fenfations, its imaginations, its 
pure intellections, its paffions and affections. 
Thefe are immediately perceived ; we are con- 
fcious of them, and have no need of ideas to re- 
prefent them to us. 

Things external to the mind, are either corpo- 
real or Spiritual. With regard to the laft, he 
thinks it poffible, that, in another ftate, fpirits 
may be an immediate object of our- underftand- 
ings, and fo be perceived without ideas ; that 
there may be fuch an union of fpirits as that 
they may immediately perceive each other, and 
communicate their thoughts mutually, without 
figns, and without ideas. 

But leaving this as a problematical point, he 
holds it to be undeniable, that material things 
cannot be perceived immediately, but only by 
the mediation of ideas. He thought it likewife 
undeniable, that the idea muft be immediately 
prefent to the mind, that it mull touch the foul 
as it were, and modify its preception of the 

From thefe principles we muft neceifarily con- 
clude, either that the idea is fome modification 
of the human mind, or that it mult be an idea in 
the Divine Mind, which is always intimately 
prefent with our minds. The matter beiriP- 
"brought to this alternative, Malebranciie con- 


288 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 13.* 

liders firft all the poffible ways fuch a modifica- 
tion may be produced in our mind as that we 
call an idea of a material object, taking it for 
granted always, that it muft be an object percei- 
ved, and fomething different from the act of the 
mind in perceiving it. He finds infuperable ob- 
jections againfl every hypothefis of fuch ideas 
being produced in our minds, and therefore con- 
cludes, that the immediate objects of perception 
are the ideas of the Divine Mind. 

Againfl: this fyflem Arnauld wrote his book 
of True and Falfe Ideas. He does not objedt to 
the alternative mentioned by Malebranche; 
but he maintains, that ideas are modifications of 
our minds. And finding no other modification 
of the human mind which can be called the idea 
of an external object, he fays it is only another 
word for perception. Chap. 5. def. 3. " I take 
" the idea of an object, and the perception of an 
" object, to be the fame thing. I do not fay 
" whether there may be other things to which 
" the name of idea may be given. But it is cer- 
" tain that there are ideas taken in this fenfe, and 
" that thefe ideas are either attributes or modiri- 
'** cations of our minds." 

This, I think indeed, was to attack the fyftem 
of Malebranche upon its weak iide, and where, 
at the fame time, an attack was leaft expected. 
Philofophers had been fo unanimous in main* 
gaining that we do not perceive external objects 



immediately, but by certain reprefentative ima- 
ges of them called ideas, that Malebkanche 
might well think his fyilem it-cure upon that 
quarter, and that the only queftion to be deter- 
mined was, In what fubject. thofe ideas are 
placed, whether in the human or in the Divine 
Mind ? 

But, fays Mr Arnauld, thofe ideas are mere 
chimeras, fictions of Phiioibphers ; there are no 
fuch beings in nature ; and therefore it is to no 
purpofe to inquire whether they are in the Di- 
vine or in the human mind. The only true and 
real ideas are our perceptions, which are acknow- 
ledged by all Phiioibphers, and Malebranche 
himfelf, to be acts or modifications of our own 
minds. He does not fay that the fictitious ideas were 
a fiction of Malebranche. He acknowledges, 
that they had been very generally maintained by 
the fchoiaftic Philofophers, and points out, very 
judiciouily, the prejudices that had led them in- 
to the belief of fuch ideas. 

Of all the powers of our mind, the externa! 
fenies are thought to be the belt underfiood, and 
their objects are the moft familiar. Hence we 
meafure other powers by them, and transfer to 
other powers the language which properly be- 
longs to them. The objects of fenfe mult be 
prefent to the fenfe, or within its fphere, in or- 
der to their being perceived. Hence, by analo- 
gy, we are led to fay of every tiling when we 

Vol. L T think 

49& ESSAY II. [CHAP. 15* 

think of it, that it is prefent to the mind, or in 
the mind. But this prefence is metaphorical, or 
analogical only ; and Arnauld calls it objective 
prefence, to diftinguifh it from that local pre- 
fence which is required in objects that are per- 
ceived by fenfe. But both being called by the 
fame name, they are confounded together, and 
thofe things that belong only to real or local pre- 
fence, are attributed to the metaphorical. 

We are likewife accuftomed to fee objects by 
their images in a mirror, or in water ; and hence 
are led, by analogy, to think that objects may be 
prefented to the memory or imagination, in fome 
iimilar manner, by images, which Philofophers 
have called ideas. 

By fuch prejudices and analogies, Arnauld 
conceives, men have been led to believe, that the 
objects of memory and imagination muft be pre- 
fented to the mind by images or ideas ; and the 
Philofophers have been more carried away by 
thefe prejudices than even the vulgar, becaufe 
the ufe made of this theory was to explain and 
account for the various operations of the mind, a 
matter in whcih the vulgar take no concern. 

He thinks, however, that Des Cartes had got 
the better of thefe prejudices, and that he ufes 
the word idea as fignifying the fame thing with 
perception, and is therefore furprifed that a dif- 
ciple of Des Cartes, and one who was fo great 
an admirer of him as Malebranche was, fhould 



be carried away by them. It is ftrange, indeed, 
that the two mod eminent difciples of Des 
Cartes, and his cotemporaries, mould differ lb 
eflentially with regard to his doctrine concern- 
ing ideas. 

I fhall not attempt to give the reader an ac~ 
cout of the continuation of this controverfy be- 
tween thofe two acute Philofophers, in the fub- 
fequent defences and replies ; becaufe I have 
not accefs to fee them. After much reafoning, 
and fome animoiity, each continued in his own 
opinion, and left his antagonilt where he found 
him. Malebranche's opinion of our feeing 
all things in God, foon died away of itfelf ; 
and Arnauld's notion of ideas feems to have 
been lefs regarded than it deferved, by the Phi- 
lofophers that came after him ; perhaps for this 
reafon, among others, that it feemed to be in 
fome fort given up by himfelf, in his attempting 
to reconcile it to the common doctrine concern- 
ing ideas. 

From the account I have given, one would be 
apt to conclude, that Arnauld totally denied 
the exiftence of ideas, in the philofophical fenfe 
of that word, and that he adopted the notion of 
the vulgar, who acknowledge no object of per- 
ception but the external objedt. But he feems 
very unwilling to deviate fo far from the com- 
mon track, and what he had given up with one- 
hand he takes back with the other. 

T 2 For, 

292 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 13, 

For, firjl, Having defined ideas to be the fame 
thing with perceptions, he adds this qualification 
to his definition : " I do not here confide r whe- 
" ther there are other things that may be call- 
" ed ideas ; but it is certain there are ideas ta-. 
** ken in this fenfe." I believe, indeed, there 
is no Philofopher who does not, on fome occa- 
iions, ufe the word idea in this popular fenfe. 

Secondly, He fupports this popular fenfe of 
the word by the authority of Des Cartes, who, 
in his demonflration of the exiftence of God 
from the idea of him in our minds, defines an 
idea thus : " By the word idea, I underftand 
" that form of any thought, by the immediate 
" perception of which I am confcious of that 
" thought ; fo that I can exprefs nothing by 
" words, with underltanding, without being cer- 
" tain that there is in my mind the idea of that 
" which is expreffed by'the words." This defi- 
nition feems, indeed, to be of the fame import 
with that which is given by Arnauld. But 
Des Cartes adds a qualification to it, which 
Arnauld, in quoting it, omits ; and which 
fhews, that Des Cartes meant to limit his de- 
finition to the idea then treated of, that is, to 
the idea of the Deity ; and that there are other 
ideas to which this definition does not apply. 
For he adds: " And thus I give the name of 
" idea, not folely to the images painted in the 
" phaatafy. Nay, in this place, I do not at all 

« give 


*' give the name of ideas to thofe images, in fo 
" far as they are painted in the corporeal phan- 
" tafy that is in fome part of the brain, but only 
" in fo far as they inform the mind, turning its 
" attention to that part of the brain." 

Thirdly, Arnauld has employed the whole 
of his fixth chapter, to fhew that thefe ways of 
fpeaking, common among Philofophers, to wit, 
that we perceive not things immediately ; that it 
is their ideas that are the immediate objects of 
our thoughts ; that it is in the idea of every thing 
that we perceive its properties, are not to be re- 
jected, but are true when rightly underftood. 
He labours to reconcile thefe expreflions to his 
own definition of ideas, by obferving, that every 
perception and every thought is necelfarily con- 
fcious of itfelf, and reflects upon itfelf ; and that, 
by this confcioufnefs and reflection, it is its own 
immediate object Whence he infers, that the 
idea, that is, the perception, is the immediate, 
object of perception. 

This looks like a weak attempt to reconcile 
two inconfiftent doctrines, by one who wifhes to 
hold both. It is true, that confcioufnefs always 
goes along with perception ; but they are dif- 
ferent operations of the mind, and they have 
their different objects. Confcioufnefs is not per- 
ception, nor is the object of confcioufnefs the ob- 
ject of perception. The fame may be faid of 
every operation of mind that has an object,, 

T 3 Thus, 

294 ESSAY II. [CHAP. Ij. 

Thus, injury is the objed of refentment. When 
I refent an injury, I am confcious of my refent- 
ment ; that is, my refentment is the immediate 
and the only object of my confeioufnefs \ but 
it would be abfurd to infer from this, that my 
refentment is the immediate objecl of my refent- 

Upon the whole, if Arnauld, in confequence 
of his doctrine, that ideas, taken for reprefenta- 
tive images of external objects, are a mere fic- 
tion of the Philofophers, had rejected boldly the 
doctrine of Des Cartes, as well as of the other 
Philofophers, concerning thofe fictitious beings, 
and all the ways of fpeaking that imply their 
exiftence, I fhould have thought him more con- 
fiftent with himfelf, and his doctrine concerning 
ideas, more rational and more intelligible than 
that of any other author of my acquaintance who 
has treated of the fubject. 


Reflections on the common Theory of Ideas. 

AFTER fo long a detail of the fentiments of 
Philofophers, ancient and modern, con- 
cerning ideas, it may feem prefumptuous to call 
in cmeftion their exiftence, Eu,t no philofophi- 



<:al opinion, however ancient, however general- 
ly received, ought to reft upon authority. There 
is no prefumption in requiring evidence for it, 
or in regulating our belief by the evidence we 
can find. 

To prevent miftakes, the reader muft again be 
reminded, that if by ideas are meant only the 
acts or operations of our minds in perceiving, 
remembering, or imagining objects, I am far 
from calling in queftion the exiftence of thofe 
ads ; we are confcious of them every day, and 
every hour of life ; and I believe no man of a 
found mind ever doubted of the real exiftence 
of the operations of mind, of which he is con- 
fcious. Nor is it to be doubted, that, by the fa- 
culties which God has given us, we can conceive 
things that are abfent, as well as perceive thofe 
that are within the reach of our fenfes ; and 
that fuch conceptions may be more or lefs di- 
ftincT:, and more or lefs lively and ftrong. We 
have reafon to afcribe to the all-knowing and 
all-perfecT: Being diftindl conceptions of all 
things exiftent and poflible, and of all their re- 
lations ; and if thefe conceptions are called his 
eternal ideas, there ought to be no difpute a- 
mong Philofophers about a word. The ideas, 
of whofe exiftence I require the proof, are not 
the operations of any mind, but fuppofed obje&s 
of thofe operations. They are not perception, 
remembrance, or conception, but things that are, 

T 4 faid 

296 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 14, 

faid to be perceived, or remembered, or imagi- 

Nor do I difpute trie exiftence of what the vul- 
gar call the objects of perception. Thefe, by all 
who acknowledge their exiftence, are called real 
things, not ideas. But Philofophers maintain, 
that, betides thefe, there are immediate objects 
of perception in the mind itfelf : That, for in- 
ftance, we do not fee the fun immediately, but 
an idea ; or, as Mr Hume calls it, an impreflion, 
in our own minds. This idea is faid to be the 
image, the refemblance, the reprefentative of the 
fun, if there be a fun. It is from the exiftence 
of the idea that we muft infer the exiftence of 
the fun. But the idea being immediately per- 
ceived, there can be no doubt, as Philofophers 
think, of its exiftence. 

In like manner, when I remember, or when 
I imagine any thing, all men acknowledge that 
there muft: be fomething that is remembered, or 
that is imagined ; that is, fome object of thofe 
operations. The object remembered muft; be 
fomething that did exift in time paft. The ob- 
ject imagined may be fomething that never ex- 
ifted. But, fay the Philofophers, befides thefe 
objects which all men acknowledge, there is a 
more immediate object which really exifts in 
the mind at the fame time we remember or i- 
magine. This object is an idea or image of the 
thing remembered or imagined. 



Thejirjl refledlion I would make on this phi- 
lofophical opinion is, That it is directly contra- 
ry to the univerfal fenfe of men who have not 
been inftru&ed in philofophy. When we fee 
the fun or moon, we have no doubt that the ve- 
ry objects which we immediately fee, are very 
far diftant from us, and from one another. We 
have not the leaft doubt, that this is the fun and 
moon which God created fome thoufands of 
years ago, and which have continued to perform 
their revolutions in the heavens ever iince. But 
how are we aftonifhed when the Philofopher 
informs us, that we are miltaken in all this ; that 
the fan and moon which we fee, are not, as we 
imagine, many miles diftant from us, and from 
each other, but that they are in our own mind ; 
that they had no exiftence before we faw them, 
and will have none when we ceafe to perceive 
and to think of them ; becaufe the objects we 
perceive are only ideas in our own minds, which 
can have no exiftence a moment longer than we 
think of them. 

If a plain man, uninftru&ed in philofophy, 
has faith to receive thefe myfheries, how great 
mult be his aftonifbment. He is brought into 
a new world, where every thing he fees, taftes, 
or touches, is an idea ; a fleeting kind of being 
which he can conjure into exiftence, or can an- 
nihilate in the twinkling of an eye. 


2p8 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 14. 

After his mind is fomewhat compofed, it will 
be natural for him to alk his philofophical in- 
ftruftor, Pray, Sir, are there then no fubftantial 
and permanent beings called the fun and moon, 
which continue to exift whether we think of 
them or not ? 

Here the Philofophers differ. Mr Locke, 
and thofe that were before him, will anfwer to. 
this queftion, That it is very true, there are fub- 
ftantial and permanent beings called the fun and 
moon ; but they never appear to us in their 
own perfon, but by their reprefentatives, the 
ideas in our own minds, and we know nothing 
of them but what we can gather from thofe, 

Bifhop Berkeley and Mr Hume would give 
a different anfwer to the queftion propofed : 
They would affure the querift, that it is a vul- 
gar error, a mere prejudice of the ignorant and 
unlearned, to think that there are any perma- 
nent and fubftantial beings called the fun and 
moon ; that the heavenly bodies, our own bo- 
dies, and all bodies whatfoever, are nothing but 
ideas in our minds , and that there can be no*. 
thing like the ideas of one mind, but the ideas 
of another mind. There is nothing in nature- 
but minds and ideas, fays the Bifhop, nay, fays 
Mr Hume, there is nothing in nature but ideas 
only j for what we call a mind is nothing but a 



train of ideas connected by certain relations be*- 
tween themfelves. 

In this reprefentation of the theory of ideas, 
there is nothing exaggerated or mifreprefented, 
as far as I am able to judge ; and furely nothing 
further is neceffary to fhew, that, to the unin- 
ftru&ed in philofophy, it mult appear extrava- 
gant and vilionary, and mo ft contrary to the dic- 
tates of common underftanding. 

There is the lefs need of any further proof of 
this, that it is very amply acknowledged by IVIr 
Hume in his Eflay on the Academical or Scep- 
tical Philofophy. " It feems evident, fays he, 
" that men are carried by a natural inflind, or 
" prepoffeffion, to repofe faith in their fenfes ; 
" and that without any reafoning, or even almofl 
" before the ufe of reafon, we always fuppofe an 
" external univerfe, which depends not on our 
*' perception, but would exift though we and 
" every fenfible creature were abfent or annihi- 
" lated. Even the animal creation are govern- 
" ed by a like opinion, and preferve this belief 
" of external objects in all their thoughts, de- 
" figns, and actions. 

" It feems alfo evident, that when men follow 
f this blind and powerful inftindt of nature, 
" they always fuppofe the very images prefented 
♦ 4 by the fenfes to be the external objeds, and 
<* never entertain any fufpicion, that the one are 
If nothing but reprefentations of the other. This,' 


job ESSAY II. [CHAP. I4 s 

tl very table which we fee white, and feel hard, 
" is believed to exift independent of our per- 
" ception, and to be fomething external to 
" the mind which perceives it ; our prefence 
" bellows not being upon it ; our abfence anni- 
" hilates it not : It preferves its exiftence uni- 
" form and entire, independent of the fituation 
" of intelligent beings who perceive or contem- 
" plate it. 

" But this univerfal and primary notion of all 
" men is foon deftroyed by the flighted philofo- 
" phy, which teaches us, that nothing can ever 
" be prefent to the mind, but in image or ^per- 
" ception ; and that the fenfes are only the in- 
" lets through which thefe images are received, 
" without being ever able to produce any imme- 
" diate intercourfe between the mind and ,the 
** objea." 

It is therefore acknowledged by this Philofo- 
pher, to be a natural inftincl: or prepofefiion, an 
univerfal and primary opinion of all men, a pri- 
mary inftincl: of nature, that the objects which 
we immediately perceive by our fenfes, are not 
images in our minds, but external objects, and 
that their exiftence is independent of us, and 
our perception. 

In this acknowledgment, Mr Hume, indeed, 
feems to me more generous, and even more in- 
genuous than Bifhop Berkeley, who would per- 
fuade us, that his opinion does not oppofe the 



tulgar opinion, but only that of the Philofo- 
phers ; and that the external exiftence of a ma- 
terial world is a philofophical hypothefis, and 
not the natural didate of our perceptive powers- 
The Bilhop mows a timidity of engaging fuch 
an adverfary, as a primary and univerfal opi- 
nion of all men. He is rather fond to court its 
patronage. But the Philofopher intrepidly gives 
a defiance to this antagonift, and feems to glory 
in a conflict that was worthy of his arm. Op- 
tat aprum aut fulvum defcendere monte leonem* 
After all, I fufpect that a Philofopher, who wa- 
ges war with this adverfary, will find himfelf in 
the fame condition as a Mathematician who 
fhould undertake to demonstrate, that there is 
no truth in the axioms of mathematics. 

Kfecond reflection upon this fubject is, That 
the authors who have treated of ideas, have ge- 
nerally taken their exiftence for granted, as a 
thing that could not be called in queftion ; and 
fuch arguments as they have mentioned inci- 
dentally, in order to prove it, feem too weak to 
fupport the conclufion. 

Mr Lock*., in the introduction to his Efiay^ 
tells us, that he ui'es the word idea to fignify 
whatever is the immediate ob,ect of thought ; 
and then adds, " I prefume it will be eafily 
" granted me that there are fuch ideas in mens 
u minds ; every one is confcious of them in him- 
" felf, and mens words and actions will fatisfy 

" him 

%o$ essaV it. [chap. 14, 

" him that they are in others." I am indeed 
confcious of perceiving, remembering, imagin- 
ing ; but that the objects of thefe operations 
are images in my mind, I am not confcious. I 
am fatisfied by mens words and actions, that 
they often perceive the fame objects which I 
perceive, which could not be, if thofe objects 
were ideas in their own minds. 

Mr Norris is the only author I have met 
with, who profeffedly puts the queftion, Whe-f 
ther material things can be perceived by us im- 
mediately ? He has offered four arguments to 
fhow that they cannot. Firjl, " Material ob* 
** jects are without the mind, and therefore there 
" can be no union between the object and the 
" percipient." Anpwer, This argument is lame, 
until it is Ihown to be neeefTary that in percep- 
tion there fhould be a union between the object 
and the percipient. Second, " Material objects 
" are difproportioned to the mind, and removed 
" from it by the whole diameter of Being." This 
argument I cannot anfwer, becaufe I do not un- 
derltand it. Third, " Becaufe, if material ob- 
" jects were immediate objects of perception, 
" there could be no phyfical fcience ; things 
" neeefTary and immutable being the only ob- 
ject of fcience." Anfwer, Although things 
neceifary and immutable be not the immedi- 
ate objects of perception, they may be imme- 
diate objects of other powers of the mind. 



Tourth, " If material things were perceived by 
" themfelves, they would be a true light to 
" our minds, as being the intelligible form of 
" our underftandings, and confequently perfec- 
" tive of them, and indeed fuperior to them." 
If I comprehend any thing of this myfterious 
argument, it follows from it, that the Deity per- 
ceives nothing at all, becaufe nothing can be fu- 
perior to his underftanding, or perfective of it. 

There is an argument which is hinted at by 
Malebranche, and by feveral other authors, 
which deferves to be more ferioufly confidered. 
As I find it moft clearly exprefied, and mod 
fully urged by Dr Samuel Clarke, I fhall give 
it in his words, in his fecond reply to Leibnitz, 
feci:. 4. " The foul, without being prefent to 
" the images of the things perceived, could not 
" poffibly perceive them. A living fubftance 
" can only there perceive, where it is prefent, 
" either to the things themfelves, (as the omni- 
" prefent God is to the whole univerfe), or to 
" the images of things, as the foul is in its pro- 
" per fenforium" 

Sir Isaac Newton expreffes the fame fenti- 
ment, but with his ufual referve, in a query 

The ingenious Dr Porterfield, in his EfTay 
concerning the motions of our eyes, adopts this 
opinion with more confidence. His words are : 
" How body ads upon mind, or mind upon bo- 


304 essay ii. [chap. 14* 

" dy, I know not ; but this I am very certain 
" of, that nothing can ad, or be aded upon, 
" where it is not ; and therefore, our mind can 
" never perceive any thing but its own proper 
" modifications, and the various ftates of the 
" fenforium, to which it is prefent : So that it 
" is not the external fun and moon which are in 
" the heavens, which our mind perceives, but 
" only their image or reprefentation impreffed 
" upon the fenforium. How the foul of a fee- 
" ing man fees thefe images, or how it receives 
" thofe ideas, from fuch agitations in the fenfo- 
" rium, I know not ; but I am fure it can never 
" perceive the external bodies themfelves, to 
" which it is not prefent." 

Thefe, indeed, are great authorities ; but, in 
matters of philofophy, we mult not be guided 
by authority, but by reafon. Dr Clarke, in 
the place cited, mentions flightly, as the reafon 
of his opinion, that " nothing can any more ad, 
" or be aded upon, when it is not prefent, than 
" it can be where it is not.', And again, in his 
third reply to Leibnitz, fed. n. " We are 
" fure the foul cannot perceive what it is not 
*'• prefent to, becaufe nothing can ad, or be ad- 
" ed upon, where it is not." The fame reafon 
we fee is urged by Dr Porterfield. 

That nothing can ad immediately where it 
is not, I think, muft be admitted \ for I agree 
with Sir Isaac Newton, that power without 



fubftance is inconceivable. It is a confequence 
of this, that nothing can be acted upon immedi- 
ately where the agent is not prefent : Let this 
therefore be granted. To make the reafoning 
conclufive, it is further neceftary, that, when we 
perceive objects, either they act upon us, or we 
act, upon them. This does not appear felf evident, 
nor have I ever met with any proof of it. I 
% fhall briefly offer the reafons why I think it 
ought not to be admitted. 

When we fay that one being acts upon ano- 
ther, we mean that fome power or force is exert- 
ed by the agent, which produces, or has a tend- 
ency to produce, a change in the thing acted up- 
on. If this be the meaning of the phrafe, as I 
conceive it is, there appears no reafon for aflert-^ 
ing, that, in perception, either the object ads 
upon the mind, or the mind upon the object. 

An object, in being perceived, does not act at 
all. I perceive the walls of the room where i fit ; 
but they are perfectly inactive, and therefore act 
not upon the mind. To be perceived, is what 
Logicians call an external denomination, which 
implies neither action nor quality in the object 
perceived. Nor could men ever have gone into 
this notion, that perception is owing to fome ac- 
tion of the object Upon the mind, were it not, 
that we are fo prone to form our notions of the 
mind from fome iimilitude we conceive between 
it and body. Thought in the mind is conceived 
Vol. I. U to 

306 ESSAY II. fcHAP. 14. 

to have fome analogy to motion in a body : And 
as a body is put in motion, by being acted upon; 
by fome other body ; fo we are apt to think the 
mind is made to perceive, by fome impulfe it re- 
ceives from the object. But reafonings, drawn from 
fuch analogies, ought never to be trulted. They 
are, indeed, the caufe of molt of our errors with" 
regard to the mind. And we might as well con- 
clude, that minds may be meafured by feet and - 
inches, or weighed by ounces aud drachms, be- 
caufe bodies have thofe properties. 

I fee as little reafon, in the fecond place, to be- 
lieve, that in perception the mind acts upon the 
object. To perceive an object is one thing ; to 
act upon it is another : Nor is the laft at all in- 
cluded in the firft. To fay, that I act upon the 
wall, by looking at k, is an abufe of language, 
and has no meaning. Logicians diftinguifh two 
kinds of operations of mind ; the firft kind pro- 
duces no effect without the mind ; the laft does. 
The firft they call immanent acls; the fecond 
tranjitwe. All intellectual operations belong to 
the firft clafs ; they produce no effect upon any 
external object. But without having recourfe to- 
logical diftinctions, every man of common fenfe 
knows, that to think of an object, and to act 
upon it, are very different things. 

As we have therefore no evidence, that, in 
perception, the mind acts upon the object, or the 
object upon the mind, but itrong reafons to the 

contrary - x 


contrary; Dr Clarke's argument againft our 
perceiving external objects immediately falls to 
the grotind. 

This notion, that, in perception, the object. 
muft be contiguous to the percipient, feems, 
with many other prejudices, to be borrowed 
from analogy. In all the external fenfes, there 
muft, as has been before obferved, be fome im- 
preflion made upon the organ of fenfe by the 
object, or by fomething coming from the object. 
An imprelTion fuppofes contiguity. Hence we 
are led by analogy to conceive fomething limilar 
in the operations of the mind. Many Philofo- 
phers refolve almoft every operation of mind 
into impreffions and feelings, words manifeftly 
borrowed from the fenfe of touch. And it is 
very natural to conceive contiguity neceffarydie- 
tween that which makes the imprertion, and that 
which receives it ; between that which feels, 
and that which is felt. And though no Philo- 
fopher will now pretend to juftify fuch analogi- 
cal reafoning as this \ yet it has a powerful influ- 
ence upon the judgment, while we contemplate 
the operations of our minds, only as they appear 
through the deceitful medium of fuch analogi- 
cal notions and expreffions. 

When we lay aiide thofe analogies, and refletft 

attentively upon our perception of the objects 

of fenfe, we muft acknowledge, that, though 

we are confeious of perceiving objects, we are 

U 2 altogct 

308 essay ii. [chap. 14. 

altogether Ignorant how it is brought about ; 
and know as little how we perceive objects as 
how we were made. And if we mould admit 
an image in the mind, or contiguous t& it, we 
know as little how perception may be produced 
by this image as by the mod diftant object. 
Why therefore mould we be led, by a theory 
which is neither grounded on evidence, nor, if 
admitted, can explain any one phenomenon of 
perception, to reject the natural and immediate 
dictates of thofe perceptive powers, to which, in 
the conduct of life, we find a neceffity of yield- 
ing implicit fubmiffion ? 

There remains only one other argument that 
I have been able to find urged againft our per- 
ceiving external objects immediately. It is pro- 
pofed by Mr Hume, who, in the Effay already 
quoted, after acknowledging that it is an univer- 
fal and primary opinion of all men, that we per- 
ceive external objects immediately, fubjoins what 
follows : 

" But this univerfal and primary opinion of 
" all men is foon deftroyed by the flighteft phi- 
" lofophy, which teaches us, that nothing can 
" ever be prefent to the mind but an image or 
" perception ; and that the fenfes are only the 
'* inlets through which theie images are received, 
" without being ever able to produce any im- 
4< mediate intercourfe between the mind and the 
M object. The table, wjiich we fee, feems to 



" diminifh as we remove farther from it : But 
" the real table, which exifts independent of us, 
" fuffers no -alteration. It was therefore nothing 
" but its image which was prefent to the mind. 
" Thefe are the obvious dictates of reafon ; and 
" no man who reflects, ever doubted that the 
" exiftences which we confider, when we fay 
" this bo ufe, and that tree, are nothing but per- 
" ceptions in the mind, and fleeting copies and 
" representations of other exiftences, which re- 
*■ main uniform and independent. So far then, 
"we are neceffitated, by reafoning, ' to depart 
" from the primary inflihcts of nature, and to 
" embrace a new fyftem with regard to the evi- 
" dence of our fenfes." 

We have here a remarkable conflict between 
two contradictory opinions, wherein all mankind 
are engaged. On the one fide, (land all the vul- 
gar, who are unpraclifed in philofophical re- 
fearches, and guided by the uncorrupted prima- 
ry inftincts of nature. On the other fide, fland 
all the Philofophers ancient and modern ; every 
man without exception who reflects. In this 
divifion, to my great humiliation, I find myfelf 
claiTed with the vulgar. 

The paffage now quoted is all I have found 
in Mr Hume ? s writings upon this point; and 
indeed - there is more reafoning in it than I have 
found in any other author ; I mail therefore exa- 
mine it minutely. . 

U 3 Firjl, 

310 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 14, 

Firft, He tells us, That " this univerfal and 
*' primary opinion of all men is ioon deftroyed 
•" by the flighteft philofophy, which- teaches us, 
" that nothing can ever be prefent to the mind 
" but an image or perception." 

The phrafe of being prefent to the mind has 
fome obfcurity ; but I conceive he means being 
an immediate object of thought ; an immediate 
object, for inftance, of perception, of memory, 
or of imagination. . If this be the meaning, 
(and it is the only pertinent one I can think of), 
there is no more in this pafTage but an aflertion 
of the proportion to be proved, and an afTertion 
that philofophy teaches it. If this be fo, 1 beg 
leave to diifent from philofophy till (he gives me 
reafon for what me teaches. For though com- 
mon fenfe and my external fenfes demand my 
affent to their dictates upon their own authority, 
yet philofophy is not entitled to this privilege. 
But that I may not diffent from fo grave a per- 
fonage without giving a reafon, I give this as the 
reafon of my diifent. I fee the fun when he 
mines ; I remember the battle of Culloden ; 
and neither of thefe objects is an image or per- 

He tells us in the next place, " k That the 
" fenfes are only the inlets through which thefe 
il images are received." 

I know that Aristotle and the fchoolmen 
taught, that images or fpecies flow from objects, 



and are let in by the fenfes, and ftrike upon the 
mind ; but this has been fo effectually refuted by 
Des Cartes, by Malebranche, and many 
others, that nobody now pretends to defend it. 
Reafonable men confider it as one of the moll 
unintelligible and unmeaning parts of the an- 
cient fyftem. To what caufe is it owing that 
modern Philofophers are fo prone to fall back in- 
to this hypothelis, as if they really believed it ? 
For of this pronenefs I could give many inftan- 
ces belides this of Mr Hume ; and I take the 
caufe to be, that images in the mind, and images 
let in by the fenfes, are fo nearly allied, and fo 
ftrictly connected, that they mull ftand or fall 
together. The old fyftem confiftently main- 
tained both : But the new fyftem has rejected the 
doctrine of images let in by the fenfes, holding, 
nevertheleis, that there are images in the mind ; 
and, having made this unnatural divorce of two 
doctrines which ought not to be put afunder, 
that which they have retained often leads them 
back involuntarily to that which they have re- 

Mr Hume furely did not ferioufly believe that 
an image of found is let in by the ear, an image 
of fmell by the nofe, an image of hardnefs and 
foftnefs, of folidity and refiftance, by the touch, 
For, befides the abfurdity of the thing, which 
has often been fhown, Mr Hume, and all mo- 
dern Philofophers maintain, that the images 
U 4 which 

312- £5 SAY Us [CHAP. 14. 

which are the immediate objects of perception 
have no exiftence when they are not perceived ; 
whereas, if they were let in by the fenfes, they 
mail be, before thev are perceived, and have a 
feparate exiftence. 

He tells us further, that philofophy teaches, 
that the fenfes are unable to produce any imme- 
diate intercourfe between the mind and the ob- 
ject. Here, I ttiil require the reafons that phi- 
lofophy gives for this ; for, to my apprehention, 
I immediately perceive external objects, and this 
I conceive is the immediate intercourfe here 

Hitherto I fee nothing that can be called an 
argument. Perhaps it was intended only for il- 
lultration. The argument, the only argument 
follows : 

The table which we fee, feems to diminifh as 
we remove farther from it ; but the real table, 
which exiits independent of us, fuffers no altera- 
tion : It was therefore nothing but its image 
which was prefented to the mind. Thefe are 
the obvious •: delates of reafon. 

To judge of the ftrength of this argument, at 
is neceflary to attend to a diftinction which is fa- 
miliar to thofe w r ho are converfant in the mathe- 
matical fciences, I mean the distinction between 
yeal and apparent magnitude. The real magnif 
tude of a line is meafured by fome known mea- 
fure of length, as inches, feet, or miles : The 



real magnitude of a furface or folid, by known 
meafures of furface or of capacity.? This mag- 
nitude is an object of touch only, and not of 
.light ; nor could we even have had any concep- 
tion of it, without the fenfe of touch ; and Bi- 
fhop Berkeley, on that account, calls it tangible 

Apparent magnitude is meafured by the angle 
which an objed fubtends at the eye. Suppofing 
two right lines drawn from the eye to the extre- 
mities of the object, making an angle of which 
the object is the fubtenfe, the apparent magni- 
tude is meafured by this angle. This apparent 
magnitude is an object of fight, and not of 
touch. Bilhop Berkeley calls it vifibk magni- 

If it is afked, What is the apparent magni- 
tude of the fun's diameter ? the aniwer is, That 
it is about thirty- one' minutes of a degree. But 
if it is alked, What is the real magnitude of the 
fun's diameter ? the anfwer mult be, So many 
thoufand miles, or fo many diameters of the earth. 
From which it is evident, that real magnitude, 
find apparent magnitude, are things of a diffe- 
rent nature, though the name of magnitude is 
given to both. The firft has three dimenfions, 
the laft only two. The firft is meafured by a 
line, the laft by an angle. 

From what has been faid, it is evident that 
the real magnitude of a body mult continue un- 

314 essay ii. [chap. 14. 

changed, while the body is unchanged. This 
we grant. But it is likewife evident, that the 
apparent magnitude muft continue the fame 
while the body is unchanged. So far otherwife, 
that every man who knows any thing of mathe- 
matics can eafily demonftrate, that the fame in- 
dividual objecl:, remaining in the fame place, 
and unchanged, muft neceffarily vary in its ap- 
parent magnitude, according as the point front 
which it is feen is more or lefs diftant ; and that 
its apparent length or breadth will be nearly 
in a reciprocal proportion to the diftance of the 
fpectator. This is as certain as the principles of 

We muft likewife attend to this, that though 
the real magnitude of a body is not originally 
an objecl of fight, but of touch, yet we learn by 
experience to judge of the real magnitude in 
many cafes by fight. We learn by experience 
to judge of the diftance of a body from the eye 
within certain limits ; and from its diftance and 
apparent magnitude taken together, we learn t« 
judge of its real magnitude. 

And this kind of judgment, by being repeated 
every hour, and almoft every minute of our lives, 
becomes, when we are grown up, fo ready and 
fo habitual, that it very much refembles the ori- 
ginal perceptions of our fenfes, and may not im- 
properly be called acquired perception. 



Whether we call it judgment or acquired per- 
ception is a verbal difference. But it is evident, 
that, by means of it, we often difcover by one 
ienfe things which are properly and naturally 
the objects of another. Thus I can fay without 
impropriety, I hear a drum, I hear a great bell, 
or I hear a fmall bell ; though it is certain that 
the figure or fixe of the founding body is not 
originally an object of hearing. In like manner, 
we learn by experience how a body of fuch a 
real magnitude, and at fuch a diftance, appears to 
the eye : But neither its real magnitude, nor its 
diftance from the eye, are properly objects of 
fight, any more than the form of a drum, or the 
fize of a bell, are properly objects of hearing. 

If thefe things be conlidered, it will appear, 
that Mr Hume's argument hath no force to fup- 
port his conclusion, nay, that it leads to a con- 
trary conclufion. The argument is this, the 
table we fee feems to diminifh as we remove 
farther from it ; that is, its apparent magnitude 
is diminifhed ; but the real table fuffers no alte- 
ration, to wit, in its real magnitude ; therefore 
it is not the real table we fee : I admit both 
the premifes in this fyllogifm, but 1 deny the 
conelufion. The fyllogifm has what the Logi- 
cians call two middle terms : Apparent magni- 
tude is the middle term in the firft premife ; real 
magnitude in the fecond. Therefore, according 
to the rules of logic, the conclufion is not juftly 


$l6 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 14. 

drawn from the premifes ; but, laying afide the 
rules of logic, let us examine it by the light of 
common fenfe. 

Let us fuppoie, for a moment, that it is the 
real table we fee : Muft not this real table ieem 
to diminifh as we remove farther from it ? It is 
demonilrable that it mull. How then can this 
apparent diminution be an argument that it is not 
the real table : When that which muft happen 
to the real table, as we remove farther from it, 
does actually happen to the table we fee, it is 
abfurd to conclude from this, that it is not the 
real table we fee. It is evident therefore, that 
this ingenious author has impofed upon himfelf 
by confounding real magnitude with apparent 
magnitude, and that his argument is a mere 

I obierved that Mr Hume's argument not on- 
ly has no rlrength to fupport his ccncluuon, but 
that it leads to the contrary conclusion ; to wit, 
that it is the real table we fee : for this plain 
reafon, that the table we fee has precifely that 
apparent magnitude which it is demonfirable 
the real table muft have when placed at that di- 

This argument is made much ftronger by 
confidering, that the real table may be placed 
fucceffively at a thoufand different diftances ;. and 
in every diftance, in a thoufand different por- 
tions ; and it can be determined demonitrativelv, 



by the rules of geometry and perfpective, what 
mult be its apparent magnitude, and apparent 
figure, in each of thofe diftances and poiitions. 
Let the table be placed fucceffively in as many 
of thefe different diftances, and different poii- 
tions, as you will, or in them all \ open your 
eyes and you fhall fee a table precifeiy of that 
apparent magnitude, and that apparent figure, 
which the real table mull have in that diftance, 
and in that polition. Is not this a ftrong ar- 
gument that it is the real table you fee ? 

In a word, the appearance of a vilible object 
is infinitely diverfified, according to its diftance 
and pofition. The vilible appearances are in- 
numerable, when we confine ourfelves to one 
object, and they are multiplied according to the 
variety of objects. Thofe appearances have 
been matter of fpeculation to ingenious men, at 
lealt lince the time of Euclid. They have ac- 
counted for all this variety, on the fuppolition, 
that the objects we fee are external, and not in 
the mind itfeif. The rules they have demon- 
ftrated about the various projections of the 
fphere, about the appearances of the planets in 
their progreffions, itations, and retrogradations, 
and all the rules of perfpective, are built on the 
fuppolition that the objects of light are external. 
They can each of them be tried in thoufands 
of inltances. In many arts and profeffions in- 
jiumerable trials are daily made ; nor were they 


318 essay ii. [chap. 14, 

ever found to fail in a fingle inftance. Shall we 
fay that a falfe fuppofition, invented by the rude 
vulgar, has been lb lucky in folving an infinite 
number of phenomena of nature ? This furely 
would be a greater prodigy than philofophy ever 
exhibited : Add to this, that upon the contrary 
hypothefis, to wit, that the objects of light are 
internal, no account can be given of any one of 
thofe appearances, nor any phyfical caufe affign- 
ed why a vifible object mould, in any one cafe, 
have one apparent figure and magnitude rather 
than another. 

Thus I have confidered every argument I have 
found advanced to prove the exiftence of ideas, 
or images of external things, in the mind : And 
if no better arguments can be found, I cannot> 
help thinking, that the whole hiftory of philo- 
fophy has never furnifhed an inftance of an opi- 
nion fo unanimoufly entertained by Philofophers 
upon fo flight grounds. 

A third reflection I would make upon this 
fabject is, That Philofophers, notwithstanding 
their unanimity as to the exiftence of ideas, hardly 
agree in any one thing elfe concerning them. If 
ideas be not a mere fiction, they mult be, of aft 
objects of human knowledge, the things we have 
belt accefs to know, and to be acquainted with ; 
yet there is nothing about wbich men differ fb 


Reflections on the theory of ideas. 319 

Some have held them to be felf-exiftent ? 
others to be in the Divine Mind, others in our 
own minds, and others in the brain or fenforium : 
I confidered the hypothefis of images in the 
brain, in the fourth chapter of this Eflay. As 
to images in the mind, if any thing more is 
meant by the image of an object in the mind 
than the thought of that object, I know not 
what it means. The diitinct conception of an 
object may, in a metaphorical or analogical fenfe, 
be called an image of it in the mind. But this 
image is only the conception of the object, and 
not the object conceived. It is an act of the 
mind, and not the object of that act. 

Some Philofophers will have our ideas, or a 
part of them, to be innate ; others will have 
them all to be adventitious : Some derive them 
from the fenfes alone ; others from fenfation and 
reflection : Some think they are fabricated by 
the mind itfelf ; others that they are produced 
by external objects ; others that they are the im- 
mediate operation of the Deity ; others fay, that 
impreffions are the caufes of ideas, and that the 
caules or impreffions are unknown : Some think 
that we have ideas only of material objects, but 
none of minds, of their operations, or of the re- 
lations of things ; others will have the immedi- 
ate object of every thought to be an idea : Some 
think we have abftiact ideas and that by this 
chiefly we are diltinguifned from the brutes - 


320 ESSAY II. [CHAP. I4. 

others maintain an abftract idea to be an abfur- 
dity, and that there can be no fuch thing : With 
fome they are the immediate objects of thought, 
with others the only objects. 

A fourth reflection is, That ideas do not make 
any of the operations of the mind to be better 
underftood, although it was probably with that 
view that they have been firfl invented, and 
afterwards fo generally received. 

We are at a lofs to know how we perceive di- 
flant objects ; how we remember things pall ; 
how we imagine things that have no cxiftence. 
Ideas in the mind feem to account for all thefe 
operations : They are all by the means of ideas 
reduced to one operation ; to a kind of feeling, 
or immediate perception of things prefent, and 
in contact with the percipient ; and feeling is an 
operation fo familiar, that we think it needs no 
explication, but may ferve to explain other ope- 

But this feeling, or immediate perception, is 
as difficult to be comprehended, as the things 
which we pretend to explain by it. Two things 
may be in contact without any feeling or per- 
ception ; there miift therefore be in the perci- 
pient a power to feel or to perceive. How this 
power is produced, and how it operates, is quite 
beyond the reach of our knowledge. As little 
can we know whether this power mull be limit- 
ed to things prefent, and in contact with us„ 


Reflections on the theory of ideas. 321 

Nor can any man pretend to prove, that the 
Being, who gave us the power to perceive things 
preient, may not give us the power to perceive 
things that are diftant, to remember things paft, 
and to conceive things that never exifted. 

Some Philolbphers have endeavoured to make 
all our jfenfes to be only different modifications 
of touch ; a theory which ferves only to con- 
found things that are different, and to perplex 
and darken things that are clear. The theory of 
ideas refembles this, by reducing all the opera- 
tions of the human underflanding to the percep- 
tion of ideas in our own minds. This power 
of perceiving ideas is as inexplicable as any of 
the powers explained by it : And the contiguity 
of the object contributes nothing at all to make 
it better underftood ; becaufe there appears no 
connection between contiguity and perception, 
but what is grounded on prejudices, drawn from 
fome imagined limilitude between mind and bo- 
dy ; and from the fuppofition, that, in percep- 
tion, the object acts upon the mind, or the mind 
upon the object. We have feen how 7 this theory 
has led Philofophers to confound thofe opera- 
tions of mind which experience teaches all men 
to be different, and teaches them to diftinguim 
in common language ; and that it has led them 
to invent a language inconfiftent with the prin- 
ciples upon which all language is grounded. 

Vol. I. X The 

322 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 14. 

The laft refle&ion I fhall make upon this 
theory, is, That the natural and neceffary confe- 
quences of it furnifh a juft prejudice againft it 
to every man who pays a due regard to the com- 
mon fenfe of mankind. 

Not to mention, that it led the Pythagoreans 
and Plato to imagine that we fee only the fha-' 
dows of external things, and not the things them- 
felves, and that it gave rife to the Peripatetic 
doctrine of fenfible /pedes, one of the greateft 
abfurdities of that ancient fyftem, let us only con- 
fider the fruits it has produced, lince it was new- 
modelled by Des Cartes. That great reform- 
er in philofophy faw the abfurdity of the doc- 
trine of ideas coming from external objects, and 
refuted it effectually, after it had been received 
by Philofophers for thoufands of years ; but he 
ftill retained ideas in the brain and in the mind. 
Upon this foundation all our modern fyftems of 
the powers of the mind are built. And the tot- 
tering Hate of thofe fabrics, though built by 
fkilful hands, may give a ftrong fufpicion of the 
unfoundnefs of the foundation. 

It was this theory of ideas that led Des Car- 
tes, and thofe that followed him, to think it ne- 
ceffary to prove, by philofophical arguments, the 
exiftence of material objects. And who does 
not fee that philofophy muft make a very ridi- 
culous figure in the eyes of fenfible men, while 
it is employed in muttering up metaphylical ar- 


guments, to prove that there is a fun and a moon, 
an earth and a fea : Yet we find thefe truly great 
men, Des Cartes, Malebranche, Arnauld, 
and Locke, ferioufly employing themfelves in 
this argument. 

• Surely their principles led them to think, that 
all men, from the beginning of the world, be- 
lieved the exiftence of thefe things upon infuf- 
ficient grounds, and to think that they would be 
•able to place upon a more rational foundation 
this univerfal belief of mankind. Bat the mif- 
fortune is, that all the laboured arguments they 
have advanced, to prove the exiftence of thofe 
things we fee and feel, are mere fophifms : Not 
one of them will bear examination. 
' I might mention feveral paradoxes, which Mr 
Locke, though by no means fond of paradoxes, 
was led into by this theory of ideas. Such as, 
that the fecondary qualities of body are no quali- 
ties of body at all, but fenfations of the mind : 
That the primary qualities of body are refem- 
blances of our fenfations : That we have no no- 
tion of duration, but from the fuceefiion of ideas 
in our minds : That perfonal identity confifts in 
confcioufnefs •, fo that the fame individual think- 
ing being may make two or three different per- 
fons, and feveral different thinking beings make 
one perfon : That judgment is nothing but a per- 
ception of the agreement or difagreenient of our 
X 2. ideas. 

324 ESSAY II. . [CHAP. 14, 

ideas. Moft of thefe paradoxes I mall have oc- 
cafion to examine. 

However, all thefe eonfequences of the. doc- 
trine of ideas were tolerable, compared ' with 
thofe which came afterwards to be difcovered 
by Berkeley and Hume : That there is no ma*- 
terial world : No abftract ideas or notions : That 
the mind is only a train of related impreflions 
and ideas, without any fubjecT: on which they 
may be impreffed : That there is neither fpace 
nor time, body nor mind, but i-mpreffions and 
ideas only : And, to fum up all, That there is no 
probability, even in demonflration itfelf, nor any 
one propofition more probable than its con- 

Thefe are the noble fruits which have growa 
upon this theory of ideas, fince it began to be 
cultivated by fkilful hands. It is no wonder 
that fenlible men mould be difgufted at philo- 
fophy, when fuch wild and mocking paradoxes 
pafs under its name. However, as thefe para- 
doxes have, with great acutenefs and ingenuity, 
been deduced by juft reafoning from the theory 
of ideas, they muft at laft bring this advantage, 
that pofitions fo mocking to the common fenfe 
of mankind, and fo contrary to the decifions of 
all our intellectual powers, will open mens eyes, 
and break the force of the prejudice which hath 
held them entangled in that theory. 




Account of the Syjlem of Leibnitz. 

THERE is yet another fyftem concerning 
perception, of which I ihall give fome ac- 
count, becaufe of the fame of its author. It is 
the invention of the famous German Philofopher 
Leibnitz, who, while he lived, held the firft 
rank among the Germans in all parts of philo- 
fophy, as well as in mathematics, in jurifpru- 
dence, in the knowledge of antiquities, and in 
every branch, both of fcience and of literature. 
He was highly refpecled by emperors, and by 
many kings and princes, who bellowed upon him 
lingular marks of their eileem. He was a par- 
ticular favourite of our Queen Caroline, con- 
fort of George II. with whom he continued his 
correfpondence by letters after fhe came to the 
Crown of Britain, till his death. 

The famous controverfy between him and the 
Britilh Mathematicians, whether he or Sir Isaac 
Newton was the inventor of that noble im- 
provement in mathematics, called by Newton 
the method of fluxions, and by Leibnitz the dif- 
ferential method, engaged the attention of the 
Mathematicians in Europe for feveral years. He 
had likewife a controverfy with the learned and 

X 3 judicious 

326 ESS-AY II. [CHAP. 15. 

judicious Br Samuel Clarke, about feveral 
points of the Newtonian philofophy which he 
difapproved. The papers which gave occafion 
to this controverfy, with all the replies and re- 
joinders, had the honour to be tranfmitted from 
the one party to the other through the hands of 
Queen Caroline, and were afterwards publifh- 

His authority, in all matters of philofophy, is 
flill fo great in moft parts of Germany, that they 
are confidered as bold fpirits, and a kind of he- 
retics, who diffent from him in any thing. Wol- 
fius, the moil voluminous writer in philofophy 
of this age, is contidered as the great interpreter 
and ad< ocate of the Leibnitzian fyftem, and re- 
veres as an ora le whatever has dropped from 
the pen of Leibnitz. This author propofed 
two great works upon the mind. The flrft, 
which I have feen, he publimed with the title 
of P/ychohgia empiric a, feu experhnentalis. The 
other was to have the title of Pfychologia ratio- 
nalis ; and to it he refers for his explication of 
the theory of Leibnitz with regard to the 
mind. But whether it was publifhed I have not 

I mull therefore take the fhort account I am 
to give of this fyftem from the writings of Leib- 
nitz himfelf, without the light which his inter- 
preter Wolfius may have thrown upon it. 



Leibnitz conceived the whole univerfe, bo- 
dies as well as minds, to be made up of monads, 
that is, fimple fubftances, each of which is, by 
the Creator in the beginning of its exiftence, en- 
dowed with certain active and perceptive pow- 
ers. A monad, therefore, is an active fubftance, 
fimple, without parts or figure, which has with- 
in itfelf the power to produce all the changes it 
undergoes from the beginning of its exiftence to 
eternity. The changes which the monad under- 
goes, of what kind foever, though they may feem 
to us the effect of caufes operating from without, 
yet they are only the gradual and fucceflive evo- 
lutions of its own internal powers, which would 
have produced all the fame changes, and motions, 
although there had been no other being in the 

Every human foul is a monad joined to an or- 
ganifed body, which organifed body coniifts of 
an infinite number of monads, each having fome 
degree of active and of perceptive power in it- 
felf. But the whole machine of the body has a 
relation to that monad which we call the foul, 
which is, as it were, the centre of the whole. 

As the univerfe is completely filled with mo- 
nads, without any chafm" or void, and thereby 
every body acts upon every other body, accord- 
ing to its vicinity or diftance, and is mutually 
readied upon by every other body, it follows, fays 
Leibnitz, that every monad is a kind of living 
X 4 mirror, 

328 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 15. 

mirror, which reflects the whole univerfe, ac- 
cording to its point of view, and reprefents the 
whole more or lefs diftindly. 

I cannot undertake to reconcile this part of 
the fyftem with what was before mentioned, 
to wit, that every change in a monad is the evo- 
lution of its own original powers, and would 
have happened though no other fubftance had 
been created. But to proceed. 

There are different orders of monads, fome 
higher, and others lower. The higher orders he 
calls dominant ; fuch is the human foul. The 
monads that compofe the organifed bodies of 
men, animals and plants, are of a lower order, 
and fubfervient to the dominant monads. But 
every monad of whatever order, is a complete 
fubftance in itfelf, indivisible, having no parts, 
indeftruclable, becaufe, having no parts, it can- 
not periih by any kind of decompofition ; it 
can only periih by annihilation, and we have no 
reaibn to believe that God will ever annihilate 
any of the beings which he has made. 

The monads of a lower order may, by a re- 
gular evolution of their powers, rife to a higher 
order. They may fucceffively be joined to or- 
ganifed bodies, of various forms and different 
degrees of perception ; but they never die, nor 
ceafe to be in fome degree aclive and percipient. 
This Philofopher makes a diitinclion between 
perception and what he calls apperception. The 



firft is common to all monads, the lafl proper to 
the higher orders, among which are human fouls. 

By apperception he underftands that degree 
of perception which reflects, as it were, upon 
itielf ; by which we are confcious of our own 
exiftence, and confcious of our perceptions ; by 
which we can reflect upon the operations of 
our own minds, and can comprehend abftracl 
truths. The mind, in many operations, he 
thinks, particularly in fleep, and in many actions 
common to us with the brutes, has not this ap- 
perception, althought it is ftill filled with a mul- 
titude of obfcure and indiftinct perceptions, of 
which we are not confcious. 

He conceives that our bodies and minds are 
united in fuch a manner, that neither has any 
phyiical influence upon the other. Each per- 
forms all its operations by its own internal 
fprings and powers ; yet the operations of one 
correfpond exactly with thofe of the other, by a 
pre-eftabliihed harmony ; juft as one clock may 
be fo adjufted as to keep time with another, al- 
though each has its own moving power, and 
neither receives any part of its motion from the 

So that according to this fyftem all our per- 
ceptions of external objects would be the fame, 
though external things had never exifted ; our 
perception of them would continue, although, 
by the power of God, they fhould this moment 


33$ essay ii. [chap. 15. 

be annihilated : We do not perceive external 
things becaufe they exift, but becaufe the foul 
was originally fo conftituted as to produce in 
itfelf all its fucceffive changes, and all its fuccef- 
five perceptions, independently of the external 

Every perception or apperception, every ope- 
ration, in a word, of the foul, is a necefTary con- 
fequence of the ftate of it immediately prece- 
ding that operation ; and this ftate is the ne- 
cefTary confequence of the ftate preceding it ; 
and fo backwards, until you come to its firft 
formation and conftitution, which produces fuc- 
ceffively, and by necefTary confequence, all its 
fucceffive Hates to the end of its exiilence : So 
that in this refpecr. the foul, and every monad, 
may be compared to a watch wound up, which 
having the fpring of its motion in itfelf, by the 
gradual evolution of its own fpring, produces all 
the fucceffive motions we obferve in it. 

In this account of Leibnitz fyftem concern- 
ing monads, and the pre-eftablilhed harmony, I 
have kept as nearly as I could to his own ex- 
preffions, in his new fyjlem of the nature and 
communication of fubflances, and of the union of 
foul and body j and in the feveral illuftrations of 
that new fyftem which he afterwards publifned ; 
and in his principles of nature and grace found- 
ed in reafon. I Ihall now make a few remarks 
upon this fyftem. 

1. To 


1. To pafs over the irreiiftible necefiity of all 
human actions, which makes a part of this 
fyftem, that will be conlidered in another place, 
I obferve firft, that the diftinction made between 
perception and apperception is obfcure and un- 
philofophical : As far as we can difcover, every 
operation of our mind is attended with confciouf- 
nefs, and particularly that which we call the 
perception of external objects ; and to fpeak of 
a perception of which we are not confcious, is 
to fpeak without any meaning. 

As confcioufnefs is the only power by which 
we difcern the operations of our own minds, or 
can form any notion of them, an operation of 
mind of which we are not confcious, is, we know 
not what ; and to call fuch an operation by the 
name of perception, is an abufe of language. 
No man can perceive an object, without being 
confcious that he perceives it. No man can 
think, without being confcious that he thinks. 
What men are not confcious of, cannot there- 
fore, without impropriety, be called either per- 
ception or thought of any kind. And if we will 
fuppofe operations of mind, of which we are not 
confcious, and give a name to fuch creatures 'of 
our imagination, that name muft lignify what 
we know nothing about. 

2. To fuppofe bodies organifed or unorgani- 
sed, to be made up of indivifible monads which 


332 essay ii. . [chap. 15. 

have no parts, is contrary to all that we know 
of body. It it elTential to a body to have parts ; 
and every part of a body, is a body, and has 
parts alfo. No number of parts, without exten- 
iion or figure, not even an infinite number, if 
we may ufe that expreffion, can, by being put 
together, make a whole that has extenlion and 
figure, which all bodies have. 

3. It is contrary to all that we know of bodies, 
to afcribe to the monads, of which they are fup- 
pofed to be compounded, perception and active 
force. If a Philofopher thinks proper to fay, 
that a clod of earth both perceives and has active 
force, let him bring his proofs. But he ought 
not to expect, that men who have underftand-^ 
ing, will fo far give it up as to receive without 
proof whatever his imagination may fuggeft. 

4. This fyftem overturns all authority of our 
fenfes, and leaves not the leaft ground to believe 
the exiftence of the objects of fenfe, or the exif- 
tence of any thing which depends upon the autho- 
rity of our fenfes ; for our perception of objects, 
according to this fyftem, has no dependence upon 
any thing external, and would be the fame as it 
ify fuppoling external objects had never exifted, 
or that they were from this moment annihilated. 

It is remarkable that Leibnitz's fyftem, that 
of Malebranche, and the common fyftem of 
ideas, or images of external objects in the mincj, 
do all agree in overturning all the authority of 



tmr fenfes ; and this orie thing, as long as men 
retain their fenfes, will always make all thefe 
fyftems truly ridiculous. 

5. The laft obfervation I fhall make upon this 
fyftem, which indeed is equally applicable to all 
the fyllems of perception I have mentioned, is, 
that it is all hypothefis, made up of conjectures 
and fuppofitions, without proof. The Peripate- 
tics fuppofed fenfible /pedes to be fent forth by 
the objects of fenfe. The moderns fuppofe ideas 
in the brain, or in the mind. Malebranche 
fuppofed, that we perceive the ideas of the Di- 
vine Mind. Leibnitz fuppofed monads and a 
pre-eftablifhed harmony ; and thefe monads be- 
ing creatures of his own making, he is at liberty 
to give them what properties and powers his 
fancy may fuggeft. In like manner, the Indian 
Philofopher fuppofed that the earth is fupported 
by a huge elephant, and that the elephant Hands 
on the back of a huge tortoife. 

Such fuppofitions, while there is no proof of 
them offered, are nothing but the fictions of hu- 
man fancy ; and we ought no more to believe 
them, than we believe Homer's fidtions of A- 
pollo's filver bow, or Minerva's ihield, or 
Venus's girdle. Such fictions in poetry are 
agreeable to the rules of the art : They are in- 
tended to pleafe, not to convince. But the Phi- 
lofophers would have us to believe their ficlions, 
though the account they give of the phaencmeni) 


334 essay ii. [chap. 15. 

of nature has- commonly no more probability 
than the account that Homer gives of the plague 
in the Grecian camp, from Apollo taking his 
ftation on a neighbouring mountain, and from 
his filver bow, letting fly his fwift arrows into 
the camp. 

Men then only begin to have a true tafte in 
philofophy, when they have learned to hold hy- 
pothefes in juft contempt ; and to confider them 
as the reveries of fpeculative men, which will 
never have any iimilitude to the works of God. 

The Supreme Being has given us fome intelli- 
gence of his work, by what our fenfes inform us 
of external things, and by what our confciouf- 
nefs and reflection inform us concerning the o- 
perations of our own minds. Whatever can be 
inferred from thefe common informations, by 
juft and found reafoning, is true and legitimate 
philofophy : But what we add to this from con- 
jecture is all fpurious and illegitimate. 

After this long account of the theories advan- 
ced by Philofophers, to account for our percep- 
tion of external objects, I hope it will appear, 
that neither Aristotle's theory of fenfible fpe- 
cies, nor Malebranche's, of our feeing things 
in God, nor the common theory of our perceiving 
ideas in our own minds, nor Leibnitz's theory of 
monads, and a pre-eftablifhed harmony, give any 
fatisfying account of this power of the mind, or 
make it more intelligible than it is without their 



aid. They are conjectures, and if they were 
true, would folve no difficulty, but raife many 
new ones. It is therefore more agreeable to 
good fenfe, and to found philofophy, to reft fa- 
tisfied with what our confcioufnefs and atten- 
tive reflection difcover to us of the nature of 
perception, than by inventing hypothefes, to 
attempt to explain things which are above the 
reach of human underftanding. I believe no 
man is able to explain how we perceive exter- 
nal objects, any more than how we are confci- 
ous of thofe that are internal. Perception, con- 
fcioufnefs, memory, and imagination, are all 
original and limple powers of the mind, and 
parts of its conftitution. For this reafon, though 
I have endeavoured to fhow, that the the^ies 
of Philofophers on this fubject are ill grounded 
and infufficient, I do not attempt to fubftitute 
any other theory in their place. 

Every man feels that perception gives him an 
invincible belief of the exiftence of that which 
he perceives ; and that this belief is not the ef- 
fect of reafoning, but the immediate confequence 
of perception. When Philofophers have wea- 
ried themfelves and their readers with their fpe- 
culations upon this fubject, they can neither 
ftrengthen this belief, nor weaken it j nor can 
they fhow how it is produced. It puts the Phi- 
fopher and the peafant upon a level ; and neither 
of them can give any other reafon for believing his 


33 6 ESSAY II. [chap. 16. 

fenfes, than that he finds it impoffible for him 
to do otherwife. 


Of Senfation. 

AVING finifhed what I intend, with re- 
gard to that act of mind which we call 
the perception of an external object, I proceed to 
confider another, which, by our conltitution, is 
conjoined with perception, and not w T ith per- 
ception only, but with many other acts of our 
minds ; and that is fenfation. To prevent re- 
petition, I muft refer the reader to the explica- 
tion of this word given in EfTay I. chap. i. 

Almoft all our perceptions have correfponding 
fenfations which conflantly accompany them, 
and, on that account, are very apt to be con- 
founded with them. Neither ought we* to expect, 
that the fenfation, and its correfponding per- 
ception, mould be diftinguifhed in common 
language, becaufe the purpofes of common life 
do not require it. Language is made to ferve 
the purpofes of ordinary converfation ; and we 
have no reafon to expect that it Ihould make di- 
ftinctions that are not of common ufe. Hence 
it happens, that a quality perceived, and the fen- 



fation correfponding to that perception, often go 
under the fame name. 

This makes the names of moft of our fenfations 
ambiguous, and this ambiguity hath very much 
perplexed philofophers. It will be neceflary to 
give fome inftances, to illuftrate the diftinction 
between our fenfations and the objects of per- 

When I fmell a rofe, there is in this operation 
both fenfation and perception. The agreeable 
odour I feel, confidered by itfelf, without re- 
lation to any external object, is merely a fenfa- 
tion. It affects the mind in a certain way ; and 
this affection of the mind may be conceived, 
without a thought of the rofe, or any other ob- 
ject. This fenfation. can be nothing elfe than 
it is felt to be. Its very effence conlifts in being 
felt ; and when it is not felt, it is not. There is 
no difference between the fenfation and the feel- 
ing of it ; they are one and the fame thing. 
It is for this reafon, that we before obferved, 
that, in fenfation, there is no object diftinct from- 
that act of the mind by which it is felt ; and 
this holds true with regard to ail fenfations. 

Let us next attend to the perception which 
we have in fmelling a rofe. Perception has al- 
ways an external object ; and the object of my 
perception, in this cafe, is that quality in the 
rofe which I difcern by the fenfe of fmell. Ob- 
ferving that the agreeable fenfation is raifed 

Vol. I. Y when 

33& ESSAY II. [chap. i6, 

when the rofe is near, and ceafes when it is re- 
moved, I am led, by my nature, to conclude 
fome quality to be in the rofe, which is the caufe 
of this fenfation. This quality in the rofe is the 
object perceived ; and that act of my mind, by 
which I have the conviction and belief of this 
quality, is what in this cafe I call perception. 

But it is here to be obferved, that the fenfa- 
tion I feel; and the quality in the rofe which I 
perceive, are both called by the fame name. The 
fmell of a rofe is the name given to both : So 
that this name hath two meanings ; and the di- 
ninguifhing its different meanings removes all 
perplexity, and enables us to give clear and di- 
ftind anfwers to queftions, about which Philo- 
fophers have held much difpute. 

Thus, if it is afked, Whether the fmell be in 
the rofe, or in the mind that feels it ? The an- 
fvver is obvious : That there are two different 
things fignified by the fmell of a rofe ; one of 
which is in the mind, and can be in nothing but 
in a fentient being ; the other is truly and pro- 
perly in the rofe. The fenfation which I feel is 
in my mind. The mind is the fentient being ; 
and as the rofe is infentient, there can be no fen- 
fation, nor any thing refembling fenfation in it. 
But this fenfation in my mind is occafioned by a 
certain quality in the rofe, which is called by 
the fame name with the fenfation, not on account 



r ©f any iimilitude, but becaufe of their conftant 

All the names we have for fmells, taftes, founds, 
and for thq various degrees of heat and 'cold, 
have a like ambiguity ; and what has been faid 
of the fmell of a role may be applied N to them. 
They fignify both a fenfation, and a quality per- 
ceived by means of that fenfation. The firft is 
the fign, the laft the thing iignified. As both 
are conjoined by nature, and as the purpofes of 
common life do not require them to be disjoined 
in our thoughts, they are both expreffed by the 
fame name : And this ambiguity is to be found 
in all languages, becaufe the reafon of it extends 
to all. 

The fame ambiguity is found in the names of 
fiich difeates as are indicated by a particular 
painful fenfation : Such as the toothach, the 
headach. The toothach fignifies a painful fen- 
fation, which can only be in a fentient being ; 
but it lignifics aifo a diforder in the body, which 
"has no fimilitude to a fenfation, but is naturally 
connected with it. 

Preiling my hand with force againft the table, 
I feel pain, and I feel the table to be hard. The 
pain is a fenfation of the mind, and there is no- 
thing that refembles it in the table. The hardnefs 
is in the table, nor is there any thing refembling 
it in the mind. Feeling is applied to both ; but 
in a different fenfe ; being a word common to 

Y 2 the 

340 ESSAY II. [chap. 16. 

the act of fenfation, and to that of perceiving by 
the fenie of touch. 

I touch the table gently with my hand, and I 
feel it to be fraooth, hard, and cold. Thefe are 
qualities of the table perceived by touch ; but I 
perceive them by means of a fenfation which in- 
dicates them. This fenfation not being painful, 
I commonly give no attention to it. It carries 
my thought immediately to the thing fignified 
by it, and is itfelf forgot, as if it had never been. 
But by repeating it, and turning my attention to 
it, and ahftracting my thought from the thing 
fignified by it, I find it to be merely a fenfation, 
and that it has no fimilitude to the hardnefs, 
fmoothnefs, or coldnefs of the table which are 
fignified by it. 

It is indeed difficult, at firfl,,to disjoin things 
in our attention which have always been con- 
joined, and to make that an object of reflection 
which never was fo before \ but fome pains and 
practice will overcome this difficulty in thofe 
who have got the habit of reflecting on the ope- 
rations of their own minds. 

'Although the prefent fubject leads us only to 
confider the fenfations which we have by means 
of our external fenfes, yet it will ferve to il- 
lustrate what has been faid, and I apprehend is 
of importance in itfelf to obferve, that many ope- 
rations of mind, to which we give one name, 
and which we always confider as one thing, ate 



complex in their nature, and made up of feveral 
more fimple ingredients ; and of thefe ingredients 
fenfation very often makes one. Of this we fhall 
give fome inflances. 

The appetite of hunger includes an uneafy 
fenfation, and a defire of food. Senfation and 
defire are different acts of mind. The laft, from 
its nature, muft have an object ; the firft has no 
object. Thefe two ingredients may always be 
feparated in thought \ perhaps they fometimes 
are, in reality ; but hunger includes both. 

Benevolence towards our fellow- creatures in- 
cludes an agreeable feeling ; but it includes alfo 
a defire of the happinefs of others. The ancients 
commonly called it defire : Many moderns choofe 
rather to call it a feeling. Both are right ; and 
they only err who exclude either of the ingre- 
dients. Whether thefe two ingredients are ne- 
ceffarily connected, is perhaps difficult for us to 
determine, there being many necefTary connec- 
tions which we do not perceive to be necefTary ; 
but we can disjoin them in thought. They are 
different acts of the mind. 

An uneafy feeling, and a defire, are in like 
manner the ingredients of malevolent affections ; 
fuch as malice, envy, revenge. The paiTion of 
fear includes an uneafy fenfation or feeling,, and 
an opinion of danger \ and hope is made up of 
the contrary ingredients. Whenwe hear of a 
heroic action, the fentiment which it raifes in 

Y 3 our 

34 2 ESSAY II. [chap. 16. 

our mind is made up of various ingredients. 
There is in it an agreeable feeling, a benevolent 
affection to the perfon, and a judgment or opi- 
nion of his merit. 

If we thus analyfe the various operations of 
our minds, we fhall find, that many of them 
which we consider as perfectly fimple, becaufe 
we have been accuftomed to call them by one 
name, are compounded of more fimple ingre- 
dients ; and that fenfation, or feeling, which is 
only a more refined kind of fenfation, makes one 
ingredient, not only in the perception of ex- 
ternal objects, but in moft operations of the 

A fmall degree of reflection may fatisfy us, 
that the number and variety of our fenfations and 
feelings is prodigious : For, to omit all thofe 
which accompany our appetites, paffions, and af- 
fections, our moral fentiments, and fentiments of 
tafte, even our external fenfes furniih a great va- 
riety of fenfations differing in kind, and almcft 
in every kind an endlefs variety of degree^. 
Every variety we difcern, with regard to tafte, 
fmell, found, colour, heat and cold, and in the 
tangible qualities of bodies, is indicated by a fen- 
fation correfponding to it. 

The moft general and the moft important divi- 
iionof our fenfations and feelings, is into the agree- 
able, the difagreeable, and the indifferent. Every 
thing we call pleafure, Tiappinefs, or enjoyment, 



on the one hand ; and on the other, every thing 
we call mifery, pain, or unealinefs, is feniation 
or feeling : For no man can for the prefent be 
more happy, or more miferable than he feels 
himfelf to be. He cannot be deceived with re- 
gard to the enjoyment or fuffering of the prefent 

But I apprehend, that befides the fenfations 
that are either agreeable or difagreeable, there is 
ftill a greater number that are indifferent. To 
thefe we give fo little attention that they have 
no name, and are immediately forgot as if they 
had never been ; and it requires attention to the 
operations of our minds to be convinced of their 

For this end we may obferve, that to a good 
ear every human voice is diftingui arable from all 
others. Some voices are pleafant, fome dif- 
agreeable ; but the far greater part can neither 
be faid to be one or the other. The fame thing 
may be faid of other founds, and no lefs of taftes, 
fmells, and colours ; and if we coniider that our 
fenfes are in continual exercife while we are a- 
wake, that fome fenfation attends every object 
they prefent to us, and that familiar objects fel- 
dom raife any emotion pleafant or painful ; we 
lhall fee reafon, befides the agreeable and dif- 
agreeable, to admit a third clafs of fenfations, that 
may be called indifferent. 

Y 4 „ The 

344 ESSAY II. [chap. 16. 

The fenfations that are indifferent, are far 
from being ufelefs. They ferve as figns to di- 
itinguifh things that differ ; and the information 
we have concerning things external, comes by 
their means. Thus, if a man had no ear to re- 
ceive pleafure from the harmony or melody of 
founds, he would dill find the fenfe of hearing of 
great utility : Though founds gave him neither 
pleafure nor pain of themfelves, they would give 
him much ufeful information ; and the like may 
be faid of the fenfations we have by all the other 

As to the fenfations and feelings that are a- 
greeable or difagreeable, they differ much, not 
only in degree, but in kind and in dignity. Some 
belong to the animal part of our nature, and are 
common to us with the brutes : Others belong 
to the rational and moral part. The firfl are 
more properly called fenfations, the iaft feel- 
ings. The French word fentiment is common to 

The intention of Nature in them is for the 
molt part obvious, and well deferving our notice. 
It has been beautifully illuftrated by a very ele- 
gant French writer, in his Theorie des fentiment s 
agree able s. 

The author of Nature, in the diftribution of 
agreeable and painful feelings, hath wifely and 
benevolently confuited the good of the human 
fpecies^ and hath even mown us, by the fame 



means, what' tenor of conduct we ought to hold. 
For, Jirjf, The painful fenfations of the animal 
kind are admonitions to avoid what would hurt 
us ; and the agreeable fenfations of this kind, 
invite us to thofe actions that are neceifary to 
the prefervation of the individual, or of the kind.' 
Secondly, By the fame means nature invites us to 
moderate bodily exercife, and admonifhes us to 
avoid idlenefs and inactivity on the one h*ahd, 
and exceffive labour and fatigue on the other. 
Thirdly, The moderate exercife of all our ration- 
al powers gives pleafure. Fourthly, Every fpe- 
cies of beauty is beheld with pleafure, and every 
fpecies of deformity with difguft ; and we mail 
find all that we call beautiful, to be fomething 
eftimable or ufeful in itfelf, or a fign of fome- 
thing that is eftimable or ufeful. Fifthly, The 
benevolent affections are all accompanied with 
an agreeable feeling, the malevolent with the 
contrary. And, fixthly, The higheft, the nobleft, 
ai*d molt durable pleafure, is that of doing well, 
and acting the part that becomes us ; and the 
molt bitter and painful fentiment, the anguim 
and remorfe of a guilty confcience. Thefe ob- 
fervations, with regard to the ceconomy of Na- 
ture in the diftribution of our painful and agree- 
able fenfations and feelings, are illuftrated by the 
author laft mentioned, fo elegantly and judici- 
oully, that I lhall not attempt to fay any thing 
upon them after him. 


346 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 16. 

I mall conclude this chapter by obferving, 
that as the confounding our fenfations with that 
perception of external objects, which is conftant- 
ly conjoined with them, has been the occaiion 
of moil of the errors and falfe theories of Philo- 
fophers with regard to the fenfes ; fo the diftin- 
guifhing thefe operations feems to me to be the 
key that leads to a right underftanding of both. 

Senfation, taken by itielf, implies neither the 
conception nor belief of any external object. It 
fuppofes a fentient being, and a certain manner in 
which that being is .affected, but it fuppofes n© 
more. Perception implies an immediate conviction 
and belief of fomethi^ig external ; fomething dif- 
ferent both from the mind that perceives, and 
from the act of perception. Things fo different 
in their nature ought to be diftinguifhed ; but 
by our conftitution they are always united. 
Every different perception is conjoined with ,a 
fenfation that is proper to it. The one is the 
fi'gn, the other the thing fignified. They coalefce 
in our imagination. They are fignified by one 
name, and are confidered as one fimple opera- 
tion. The purpofes of life do not require them 
to be diftinguifhed. 

It is the Philofopher alone who has occafion 
to diflinguifh them, when he would analyfe the 
operation compounded of them. But he has no 
fufpicion that there is any compofition in it \ 
and to difcover this requires a degree of reflec- 


lion which has been too little practifed even by 

In the old philofophy, fenfation and percep<- 
tion were perfectly confounded. The feniible 
fpecies coming from the object, and impreifed 
upon the mind, was the whole ; and you might 
call it fenfation or perception as you pleafed. 

Des Cartes and Locke, attending more to 
the operations of their own minds, fay, That the 
fenfations by which we have notice of fecon- 
dary qualities, have no refemblance to any thing 
that pertains to body ; but they did not fee that 
this might with equal juftice be applied to the 
primary qualities. Mr Locke maintains, that 
the fenfations we have from primary qualities 
are refemblances of thofe qualities. This ihows 
how grofsly the molt ingenious men may err 
with regard to the operations of their minds. It 
mutt indeed be acknowledged, that it is much 
eafier to have a diftinct. notion of the fenfations 
that belong to fecondary, than of thofe that be- 
long to the primary qualities. The reafon of 
this will appear in the next chapter. 

But had Mr Locke attended with fuffkiept 
accuracy to the fenfations which lie was every 
day and every hour receiving from primary qua- 
lities, he would have feen, that they can as little 
refemble any quality of an inanimated being, as 
pain can refemble a cube or a circle. 


34& essay II. [chap. 16. 

What had efcaped this ingenious Philofopher, 
was clearly difcerned by Bilhop Berkeley. 
He had a juft notion of fenfations, and faw that 
it was impomble that any thing in an infentient 
being could refemble them ; a thing fo evident 
in itfelf, that it feems wonderful that it mould 
have been fo long unknown. 

But let us attend to the confequence of this 
difcovery. Philofophers, as well as the vulgar, 
had been accuftomed to comprehend both fen- 
fation and perception under one name, and to 
confider them as one uncompounded operation. 
Philofophers, even more than the vulgar, gave 
the name of fenfation to the whole operation of 
the fenfes ; and all the notions we have of ma- 
terial things were called ideas of fenfation. This 
led Bifliop Berkeley to take one ingredient of 
a complex operation for the whole ; and having 
clearly difcovered the nature of fenfation, ta- 
king it for granted, that all that the fenfes pre- 
fent to the mind is fenfation, which can have 
no refemblance to any thing material, he con- 
cluded that there is no material world. 

If the fenfes furnifhed us with no materials of 
thought' but fenfations, his conclufion mult be 
juft ; for no fenfation can give us the conception 
of material things, far lefs any argument to 
prove their exiltence. But if it is true that by 
our fenfes we have not only a variety of fenfa- 
tions, but likewife a conception, and an imme- 


diate natural conviction of external objects, he 
reafons from a falfe fuppofition, and his ar- 
guments fall to the ground, 


Of the Objects of Perception ; andjirft, Of pri- 
mary and fecon4ary Qualities. 

THE objects of perception are the various 
qualities of bodies. Intending to treat of 
thefe only in general, 1 and chiefly with a view 
to explain the notions which our fenfes give us 
of them, I begin with the deflinction between 
primary and fecondary qualities. Thefe were 
diftinguifiied very early. The Peripatetic fyftem 
confounded them, and left no difference. The 
diftin&ion was again revived by Des Cartes 
and Locke, and a fecond time abolifhed by 
Berkeley and Hume. If the real foundation 
of this dininction can be pointed out, it will 
enable us to account for the various revolutions 
in the fentiments of Philofophers concerning 

Every one knows that extenfion, divisibility, 
figure, motion, folidity, hardnefs, foftnefs, and 
fluidity, were by Mr Locks called primary qua- 
lities of body ; and that found, colour, tafte, 
fmell, and heat or cold, were called fecondary 


35© ESSAY II. [CHAP. J'J i 

qualities. Is there a juft foundation for this 
diftinction ? Is there any thing common to the 
primary which belongs not to the fecondary? 
And what is it ? 

I anfwer, That there appears to me to be a. 
real foundation for the diftinction ; and it is 
this : That our fenfes give us a direct and a di- 
ftinct notion of the primary qualities, and in- 
form us what they are in themfelves : But of 
the fecondary qualities, our fenfes give us -only 
a relative and obfcure notion. They inform us 
only, that they are qualities that affect us in a 
certain manner, that is, produce in us a certain 
fenfation ; but as to what they are in themfelves 
our fenfes leave us in the dark. 

Every man capable of reflection may eaiily 
fatisfy himfelf, that he has a perfectly clear and 
diftinct notion of extenfion, divifibility, figure, 
and motion. The folidity of a body means no 
more, but that it excludes other bodies from oc- 
cupying the fame place at the fame time. Hard- 
nefs, foftnefs, and fluidity, are diiferent degrees 
of cohefion in the parts of a body. It is fluid, 
when it has no fenfible cohefion ; loft when the 
cohefion is weak ; and hard when it is ftrong : 
Of the caufe of this cohefion we are ignorant, 
but the thing itfelf we underftand perfectly, be- 
ing immediately informed of it by the fenfe of 
touch. It is evident, therefore, that of the pri- 
mary qualities we have a clear and diflinct no- 
tion y 


tion ; we know what they are, though we may 
be ignorant of their caufes. 

I obferved farther, that the notion we have of 
primary qualities is direct, and not relative only. 
A relative notion of a thing, is, ftrictly fpeaking, 
no notion of the thing at. all, but only of fome 
relation which it bears to fomething elfe. 

Thus gravity fometimes fignifies the tendency 
of bodies towards the earth ; fometimes it iigni- 
fies the caufe of that tendency : When it means 
the firft, I have a direct and diftinct notion of 
gravity : I fee it, and feel it, and know per- 
fectly what it is \ but this tendency muft have 
a caufe : We give the fame name to the caufe ; 
and that caufe has been an object of thought 
and of fpeculation. Now what notion have wc 
of this caufe when we think and reafon about 
it ? It is evident, we think of it as an unknown 
caufe, of a known effect. This is a relative no- 
tion, and it muft be obfcure, becaufe it gives us 
no conception of what the thing is, but of what 
relation it bears to fomething elfe. Every re- 
lation which a thing unknown bears to fomething 
that is known, may give a relative notion of it : 
and there are many objects of thought, and of 
difcourfe, of which our faculties can give no 
better than a relative notion. 

Having premifed thefe things to explain what 
is meant by a relative notion, it is evident, that 
*>ur notion of primary qualities is not of this 

kind ; 

35 s ESSAY II, fcKAP. 17, 

kind ; we know what they are, and not barely 
what relation they bear to fomething elfe. 

It is otherwife with fecondary qualities. If 
you aik me, what is that quality or modification 
in a rofe Which I call its fmell, I am at a lofs 
to anfwer directly. Upon reflection I find, that 
I have a diftinct notion of the fenfation which 
it produces in my mind. But there can be no- 
thing like to this fenfation in the rofe, becaufe 
it is infentient.. The quality in the rofe is fome- 
thing which occafions the fenfation in me ; but 
what that fomething is, I know not. My fenfes 
give me no information upon this point. The 
only notion therefore my fenfes give is this, 
That fmell in the rofe is an unknown quality or 
modification, which is the caufe or occafion of a 
fenfation which I know well. The relation 
which this unknown quality bears to the fenfa- 
tion with which nature hath connected it, is all 
I learn from the fenfe of fmelling ; but this is 
evidently a relative notion. The fame reafoning 
will apply to every fecondary quality. 

Thus I think it appears, that there is a real 
foundation for the diltinction of primary from 
fecondary qualities ; and that they are diftin- 
guifhed by this, that of the primary we have by 
our fenfes a direct and diftinct notion ; but or 
the fecondary only a relative notion, which mull, 
becaufe it is only relative, be obfcure ; they are 
conceived only as the unknown caufes or occa- 


fions of certain fenfations with which we are 
well acquainted. 

The account I have given of this diftindtion 
is founded upon no hypotheiis. Whether our 
notions of primary qualities are direct, and di- 
ftinct, thofe of the fecondary relative and ob- 
fcure, is a matter of fact, of which every man 
may have certain knowledge by attentive re- 
flection upon them. To this reflection I appeal, 
as the proper teft of what has been advanced, 
and proceed to make fome reflections on this 

i. The primary qualities are neither fenfa- 
tions, nor are they refemblances of fenfations. 
This appears to me felf-evident. I have a clear 
and diftinct notion of each of the primary qua- 
lities. I have a clear and diftinct notion of fen- 
fation. I can compare the one with the other ; 
and when I do fo, I am not able to difcern a 
refembling feature. Senfation is the ad, or the 
feeling, (I difpute not which) of a fentient be- 
ing. Figure, divisibility, folidity, are neither 
acts nor feelings. Senfation fuppofes a fentient 
being as its fubject. ; for a fenfation that is not 
felt by fome fentient being, is an abfurdity. Fi- 
gure and diviiibility fuppofes a fubject. that is 
figured and divifible, but not -a fubject that is 

2. We have no reafon to think, that the fen- 
fations by which we have notice of fecondary 

Vol. T. X qualities 

354 b s s a y ir. [chap. 17. 

qualities refemble any quality of body. The 
abfurdity of this notion has been clearly fhown 
by Des Cartes, Locke, and many modern Phi- 
lofophers. It was a tenet of the ancient philo- 
fophy, and is llili by many imputed to the vul- 
gar, but only as a vulgar error. It is too evident 
to need proof, that the vibrations of a founding 
body do not refemble the fenfation of found, 
nor the effluvia of an odorous body the fenfation 
of fmell. 

3. The diftindtnefs of our notions of primary 
qualities prevents all queftions and difputes 
about their nature. There are no different opi- 
nions about the nature of extenfion, figure, or 
motion, or the nature of any primary quality. 
There nature is manifeft to our fenfes, and cannot 
be unknown to any man, or miftaken by him,, 
though their caufes may admit of difpute. 

The primary qualities are the object of the 
mathematical fciences ; and the diftinctnefs of 
our notions of them enables us to reafon de~ 
monftratively about them to a great extent. 
Their various modifications are precifely defined 
in the imagination, and thereby capable of be- 
ing compared, and their relations determined 
with precifion and certainty. 

It is not fo with fecondary qualities. Their 
nature not being manifeft to the fenfe, may be a 
fubj eel of difpute. Our feeling informs us that 



the fire is hot ; but it does not inform us what 
that heat of the fire is. But does it not appear 
a contradiction, to fay we know that the fire is 
hot, but we know not what that heat is ? I an- 
fwer ? There is the fame appearance of contra- 
diction in many things, that mull be granted. 
We know that wine, has an inebriating quality ; 
but we know not what that quality is. It is 
true, indeed, that if we had not fome notion of 
what is meant by the heat of fire, and by an in- 
ebriating quality, we could affirm nothing of 
either with underftanding. We have a notion of 
both ; but it is only a relative notion. We knoW 
that they are the caufes of certain known effects. 

4. The nature of fecondary qualities is a pro- 
per fubjecl of philofophical difquifition ; and in 
this philofophy has made fome progrefs. It has 
been difcovered, that the fenfation of fmell is oc- 
caiioned by the effluvia of bodies ; that of found 
by their vibration. The difpofition of bodies to 
reflect a particular kind of light occafions the 
fenfation of colour. Very curious difcoveries 
have been made of the nature of heat, and an 
ample field of difcovery in thefe fubjects remains. 

5. We may fee why the fenfations belonging 
to fecondary qualities are an object of our atten- 
tion, while thole which belong to the primary 
are not. 

The firft are not only figns of the object per- 
ceived, but they bear a capital part in the notion 

Z 2 we 

35<5 e s sa y n. [chap. 17. 

we form of it. We conceive it only as that 
which occafions fuch a fenfation, and therefore 
cannot refled upon it without thinking of the 
fenfation which it occafions : We have no other 
mark whereby to diftinguifh it. The thought of 
a fecondary quality, therefore, always carries us 
back to the fenfation which it produces. We 
give the (ame name to both, and are apt to con- 
found them together. ' 

But having a clear and diftindt conception of 
primary qualities, we have no need when we 
think of them to recal their fenfations. When 
a primary quality is perceived, the fenfation im- 
mediately leads our thought to the quality figni- 
iied by it, and is itfelf forgot. We have no oc- 
cafion afterwards to reflect upon it ; and fo we 
come to be as little acquainted with it, as if we 
had never felt it. This is the cafe with the fen- 
fations of all primary qualities, when they are 
not fo painful or pleafant as to draw our atten- 

When a man moves his hand ' rudely againlt a 
pointed hard body, he feels pain, and may eafi- 
ly be perfuaded that this pain is a fenfation, and 
that there is nothing refembling it in the hard 
body ; at the fame time he perceives the body 
to be hard and pointed, and he knows that thefe 
qualities belong to the body only. In this cafe, 
it is eafy to diltinguifh what he feels from what 
he perceives. 



Let him again touch the pointed body gently, 
fo as to give him no pain ; and now you can 
hardly perfuade him that he feels any thing but 
the figure and hardnefs of the body ; fo difficult 
it is to attend to the fenfations belonging to pri- 
mary qualities, when they are neither pleafant 
nor painful. They carry the thought to the ex- 
ternal object, and immediatly difappear and are 
forgot. Nature intended them only as iigns ; 
and when they have ferved that purpofe they 

We are now to coniider the opinions both of 
the vulgar, and of Philofophers upon this fub- 
ject. As to the former, it is not to be expected 
that they mould make diftinctions which have 
no connection with the common affairs of life; 
they do not therefore diflinguifh the primary 
from the fecondary qualities, but fpeak of both 
as being equally qualities of the external object. 
Of the primary qualities they have a diltincl no- 
tion, as they are immediately and diftinclly per- 
ceived by the fenfes ; of the fecondary, their no- 
tions, as I apprehend, are confufed and indif- 
tincl, rather than erroneous. A fecondary qua- 
lity is the unknown caufe or occafion of a well 
known effect ; and the fame name is common to 
the caufe and the effect. Now, to diflinguifh 
clearly the different ingredients of a complex no- 
tion, and, at the fame time, the different meanings 
of an ambiguous word, is the work of a Philofo- 
Z 3 pher j 

358 essay ii. [chap. 17. 

pher ; and is not to be expected of the vulgar, 
when their occafions do not require it. 

I grant, therefore, that the notion which the 
vulgar have of fecondary qualities, is indiftincl: 
and inaccurate. But there feems to be a contra- 
diction between the vulgar and .the Philofopher 
upon this fubject, and each charges the other 
with a grofs abfurdity. The vulgar fay. That 
fire is hot, and fnow cold, and fugar fweet ; 
and that to deny this is a grofs abfurdity, and 
contradicts the teftimony of our fenfes. The 
Philofopher fays, That heat, and cold, and fweet- 
nefs, are nothing but fenfations in our minds ; 
and it is abfurd to conceive, that thefe fenfations 
are in the fire, or in the fnow, or in the fugar. 

I believe this contradiction between the vul- 
gar and the Philofopher is more apparent than 
real ; and that it is owing to an abufe of lan- 
guage on the part of the Philofopher, and to in- 
diflinft notions on the part of the vulgar. The 
Philofopher fays, There is no heat in the fire, 
meaning, that the fire has not the fenfation of 
heat. His meaning is juft ; and the vulgar will 
agree with him, as foon as they underftand his 
meaning : But his language is improper ; for 
there is really a quality in the fire, of which the 
proper name is heat ; and the name of heat is 
given to this quality, both by Philofophers and 
by the vulgar, much more frequently than to the 
fenfation of heat. This fpeech of the Philofo- 


pher, therefore, is meant by him in one fenfe ; 
it is taken by the vulgar in another fenfe. In 
the fenfe in which they take it, it is indeed ab-* 
furd, and fo they hold it to be. In the fenfe in 
which he means it, it is true 5 and the vulgar, 
as foon as they are made to underftand that 
fenfe, will acknowledge it to be true. They 
know as well as the Philofopher, that the fire 
does not feel heat ; and this is all that he means 
by faying there is no heat in the fire. 

In the opinions of Philofophers about primary 
and fecondary qualities, there have been, as was 
before obferved, feveral revolutions : They were 
diftinguifhed long before the days of Aristotle, 
by the feci: called Atomifts ; among whom De- 
mocritus made a capital figure. Inthofe times, 
the name of quality was applied only to thofe we 
call fecondary qualities ; the primary being con- 
iidered as eifential to matter, were not called 
qualities. That the atoms, which they held to 
be the firft principles of things, were extended, 
folid, figured, and moveable, there was no doubt ; 
but the queftion was, whether they had fmell, 
tafte, and colour ? or, as it was commonly ex- 
prelfed, whether they had qualities ? The Ato- 
mifts maintained, that they had not ; that the 
qualities were not in bodies, but were fome- 
thing refulting from the operation of bodies up- 
on our fenfes. 

Z4 It 

360 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 17. 

It would feem, that when men began to fpe- 
culate upon this fubject, the primary qualities 
appeared fo clear and manifeft, that they could 
entertain no doubt of their exiftence wherever 
matter exifted ; but the fecondary fo obfcure, that 
they were at a lofs where to place them. They 
ufed this comparifon ; as fire, which is neither 
in the flint nor in the fleel, is produced by their 
collifion, fo thofe qualities, though not in bo- 
dies, are produced by^their impulfe upon our 

This doctrine was oppofed by Aristotle. 
He believed tafte and colour to be fubftantial 
forms of bodies, and that their fpecies, as well 
as thofe of figure and motion, are received by 
the fenfes. 

In believing, that what we commonly call tafte 
and colour is fomething really inherent in body, 
and does not depend upon its being tailed and 
feen, he followed nature. But, in believing that 
our fenfations of tafte and colour are the forms 
or fpecies of thofe qualities received by the fen- 
fes, he followed his own theory, which was an 
abfurd fiction. Des Cartes not only (bowed 
the abfurdity of fenfible fpecies received by the 
fenfes, but gave a more juft and more intelligible 
account of fecondary qualities than had been 
given before. Mr Locke followed him, and be- 
fiowed much pains upon this fubject. He was 
the firft, I think, that gave them the name of fe- 


condary qualities, which has been very general- 
ly adopted. He diftinguifhed the fenfation from 
the quality in the body which is the caufe or 
occalion of that fenfation, and mowed that there 
neither is nor can be any fimilitude between 

By this account, the fenfes are acquitted of 
putting any fallacy. upon us; the fenfation is 
real, and. no fallacy ; the quality in the body, 
wmich is the caufe or occafion of this fenfation, 
is likewife real, though the nature of it is not 
manifeft to our fenfes. If we impofe upon our- 
felves, by confounding the fenfation with the 
quality that occafions it, this is owing to rafh 
judgment, or weak under Handing, but not to any 
falfe teftimony of our fenfes. 

This account of fecondary qualities I take to 
be very juft ; and, if Mr Locke had Hopped 
here, he would have left the matter very clean 
But he thought it neceffary to introduce the 
theory of ideas, to explain the diftinction be- 
tween primary and fecondary qualities, and by 
that means, as I think, perplexed and darkened 

When Philofophers fpeak about ideas, we are 
often at a lofs to know what they mean by them, 
and may be apt to fufpect that they are mere 
fictions, that have no exiftence. They have 
told us, that, by the ideas which we have imme- 
diately from our fenfes, they mean our fenfations. 



Thefe, indeed, are real things, and not fictions. 
We may, by accurate attention to them, know 
perfectly their nature ; and if Philofophers would 
keep by this meaning of the word idea, when 
applied to the objects of fenfe, they would at 
leaft be more intelligible. Let us hear how Mr 
Locke explains the nature of thofe ideas, when 
applied to primary and fecondary qualities. 
Book 2. chap. 8. feet. 7. 10th edition. " To dif- 
" cover the nature of our ideas the better, and 
" to difcourfeof them intelligibly, it will be con- 
" venient to diftinguifh them, as they are ideas, 
" or perceptions in our minds, and as they are 
u modifications of matter in the bodies that caufc 
" fuch perceptions in us, that fo we may not 
" think (as perhaps ufually is done), that they 
" are exactly the images and refemblances of 
" fomething inherent in the fubject; mod of 
" thofe of fenfation being, in the mind, no more 
" the likenefs of fomething exifting without us, 
** than the names that Hand for them are the 
" likenefs of our ideas, which yet, upon hearing, 
" they are apt to excite in us." 

This way of diftinguilhing a thing, jirjl, as 
what it is ; and, fecondty, as what it is not, is, I 
apprehend, a very extraordinary way of difcover- 
ing its nature : And if ideas are ideas or percep- 
tions in our minds, and at the fame time the mo- 
difications of matter in the bodies that caufe 



fuch perceptions in us, it will be no eafy matter 
to difcourfe of them intelligibly. 

The difcovery of the nature of ideas is carried 
on in the next fedlion, in a manner no lefs ex- 
traordinary. " Whatfoever the mind perceives 
" in itfelf, or is the immediate object of percep- 
" tion, thought, or underftanding, that I call 
" idea ; and the power to produce any idea in 
" our mind, I call quality of the fubject where - 
" in that power is. Thus, a lhowball having the 
" power to produce in us the ideas of white, 
" cold, and round, the powers to produce thofe 
" ideas in us, as they are in the fnowball, I call 
" qualities : and as they are fenfations, or per- 
" ceptions in our understandings, I call them 
" ideas ; which ideas, if 1 fpeak of them fome- 
" times as in the things themfelves, I would be 
" underftood to mean thofe qualities in the ob- 
" je&s which produce them in us." 

Thefe are the diftin&ions which Mr Locke 
thought convenient, in order to difcover the na- 
ture of our ideas of the qualities of matter the 
better, and to difcourfe of them intelligibly. I 
believe it will be difficult to find two other para- 
graphs in the EfTay fo unintelligible. Whether 
this is to be imputed to the intractable nature of 
ideas, or to an ofcitancy of the author, with 
which he is very rarely chargeable, I leave the 
reader to judge. There are, indeed, feveral 
other parTages in the fame chapter, in which a 


364 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 17. 

like obfcurity appears ; but I do not choofe to 
dwell upon them. The conclufion drawn by 
him from the whole, is, that primary and fecon- 
dary qualities are diftinguifhed by this, that the 
ideas of the former are refemblances or copies of 
them ; but the ideas of the other are not refem- 
blances of them. Upon this doctrine, I beg leave 
to make two obfervations. 

Firjl, Taking it for granted, that, by the ideas 
of primary and fecondary qualities, he means 
the fenfations they excite in us, I obferve that 
it appears itrange, that a fenfation fhould be the 
idea of a quality in body, to which it is acknow- 
ledged to bear no refemblance. If the fenfation 
of found be the idea of that vibration of the 
founding body which occafions it, a furfeit may, 
for the fame reafon, be the idea of a feafl. 

Kfecond obfervation is, That when Mr Locke 
affirms, that the ideas of primary qualities, that 
is, the fenfations they raife in us, are refemblan- 
ces of thofe qualities, he feems neither to have 
given due attention to thofe fenfations, nor to 
the nature of fenfation in general. 

Let a man prefs his hand againfc a hard body, 
and let him attend to the fenfation he feels, ex- 
cluding from his thought every thing external, 
even the body that is the caufe of his feeling. 
This abftraction indeed is difficult, and feems to 
have been little, if at all, practifed : But it is 
fiot impoffible, and it is evidently the only way 



to underftand the nature of the fenfation. A 
due attention to this fenfation will fatisfy him, 
that it is no more like hardnefs in a body, than 
the fenfation of found is like vibration in the 
founding body. 

I know of no ideas but my conceptions \ and 
my idea of hardnefs in a body, is the conception 
of fuch a cohelion of its parts as requires great 
force to difplace them. I have both the concep- 
tion and belief of this quality in the body, at 
the fame time that I have the fenfation of pain, 
by preffing my hand againft it. The fenfation 
and perception are clofely conjoined by my con- 
ftitution ; but I am fure they have no fimilitude : 
I know no reafon why the one mould be called 
the idea of the other, which does not lead us to 
call every natural effect the idea of its cauie. 

Neither did Mr Locke give due attention to 
the nature of fenfation in general, when he af- 
firmed, that the ideas of primary qualities, that 
is, the fenfations excited by them, are refem- 
blances of thofe qualities. 

That there can be nothing like fenfation in an 
infentient being, or like thought in an unthink- 
ing being, is felf-evident, and has been fhown, 
to the conviction of all men that think, by Bifhop 
Berkeley \ yet this was unknown to Mr Locke, 
It is an humbling confideration, that, in fubjects 
of this kind, felf-evident truths maybe hid frcm 
the eyes of the moil ingenious men. But we 


366 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 17. 

have, withal, this confolation, that, when once 
difcovered, they fhine by their own light ; and 
that light can no more be put out. 

Upon the whole, Mr Locke, in making fe- 
condary qualities to be powers in bodies to ex- 
cite certain fenfations in us, has given a juft and 
diftincl analyfis of what our fenfes difcover con- 
cerning them ; but, in applying the theory of 
ideas to them, and to the primary qualities, he 
has been led to fay things that darken the fub- 
jedt, and that will not bear examination. 

Bifliop Berkeley having adopted the fenti- 
ments common to Philofophers, concerning the 
ideas we have by our fenfes, to wit, that they 
are all fenfations, faw more clearly the neceflary 
confequence of this doctrine ; which is, that 
there is no material world ; no qualities primary 
or fecondary ; and, confequently, no foundation 
for any diftinction between them. He expofed the 
abfurdity of a refemblance between our fenfations 
and any quality, primary or fecondary, of a fub- 
ftance that is fuppofed to be infentient. Indeed, 
if it is granted that the fenfes have no other of- 
fice but to farnifh us with fenfations, it will be 
found impoflible to make any diftin&ion between 
primary and fecondary qualities, or even to main- 
tain the exiftence of a material world. 

From the account I have given of the various 
revolutions in the opinions of Philofophers about 
primary and fecondary qualities, I think it ap- 


pears, that all the darknefs and intricacy that 
thinking men have found in this fubjecl, and 
the errors they have fallen into, have been owing 
to the difficulty of diftinguifhing clearly fenfa- 
tion from perception ; what we feel from what 
we perceive. 

The external fenfes have a doable province ; 
to make us feel, and to make us perceive. 
They furnifh us with a variety of fenfations, 
iome pleafant, others painful, and others indif- 
ferent ; at the fame time they give us a concep- 
tion, and an invincible belief of the exiftence of 
external objects. This conception of external 
objects is the work of Nature. The belief of 
their exiftence, which our fenfes give, is the 
work of Nature ; fo likewife is the fenfation 
that accompanies it. This conception and be- 
lief which Nature produces by means of the 
fenfes, we call perception. The feeling which 
goes along with the perception, we call fenfation. 
The perception and its correfponding fenfation 
are produced at the fame time. In our expe- 
rience we never find them disjoined. Hence 
we are led to conlider them as one thing, to give 
them one name, and to confound their different 
attributes. It becomes very difficult to feparate 
them in thought, to attend to each by itfelf, and 
to attribute nothing to it which belongs to the 

368 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 17. 

To do this requires a degree of attention to 
what paifes in our own minds, and a talent of 
diitinguifhing things that differ, which is not to 
be expected in the vulgar, and is even rarely 
found in Philofophers ; fo that the progrefs made 
in a juft analyfis of the operations of our fenfes 
has been very flow. The hypothecs of ideas, fa 
generally adopted, hath, as I apprehend, great- 
ly retarded this progrefs ; and we might hope for 
a quicker advance, if Philofophers could fo far 
humble themfelves as to believe, that in every 
branch of the philofophy of Nature, the produc- 
tions of human fancy and conjecture will be 
found to be drofs ; and that the only pure metaj. 
that will endure the teft, is what is difcovered 
by patient obfervation, and chafte induction. 


Of other Objecls of Perception. 

BESIDES primary and fecondary qualities of 
bodies, there are many other immediate 
objecls of perception. Without pretending to a 
complete enumeration, I think they moftly fall 
under one or other of the following claffes. lft. 
Certain ftates or conditions of our own bodies. 
id, Mechanical powers or forces. 3d, Chemi- 


cal powers. qtb, Medical powers or virtues, 
$th, Vegetable and animal powers. 

That we perceive certain diforders in our own 
bodies by means of uneafy fenfations, which na- 
ture hath conjoined with them, will not be dif- 
puted. Of this kind are toothach, headach, 
gout, and every diftemper and hurt which we 
feel. The notions which our fenfe gives of thefe, 
have a flrong analogy to our notions of fecon- 
dary qualities. Both are fimilarly compounded, 
and may *be fimilarly refoived, and they give 
light, to each other. 

In the toothach, for inftance, there is, firji, a 
painful feeling ; and, feco?idly, a conception and 
belief of fome diforder in the tooth, which is 
believed to be the caufe of the uneafy feeling. 
The firft of thefe is a fenfation, the fecond is 
perception ; for it includes a conception and be- 
lief of an external object. But thefe two things, 
though of different natures, are i'o conftantly 
conjoined in our experience, and in our imagi- 
nation, that we confider them as one. We give 
the fame name to both ; for the toothach is the 
proper name of the pain we feel ; and it is the 
proper name of the diforder in the tooth which 
caufes that pain. If it fhould be made a que- 
flion, whether the toothach be in the mind that 
feels it, or in the tooth that is affect ed ? much 
might be faid on both fides, while it is not ob- 
ferved that the word has two meanings. But a 

Vol. I. A a little 

37Q ESSAY II, [chap. i§. 

little reflection fatisfies us, that the pain is in "the 
mind, and the diforder in the tooth. If fome 
Philofopher mould pretend to have made a dis- 
covery, that the toothach, the gout, the headach, 
are only fenfations in the mind, and that it is a 
vulgar error to conceive that they are diftempers 
of the body, he might defend his fyrtem in the 
fame manner, as thofe, who affirm that there is 
no found nor colour nor tafte in bodies, defend 
that paradox. But both thefe fyftems, like molt 
paradoxes, will be found to be only an abufe of 

We fay that we feel the toothach, not that we 
perceive it. On the other hand, we fay that we 
perceive the colour of a body, not that we feel 
it. Can any reafon be given for this difference 
of phrafeology ? In anfwer to this queflion, I ap- 
prehend, that both when we feel the toothach, 
and when we fee a coloured body, there is fen- 
fation and perception conjoined. But, in the 
toothach, the fenfation being very painful, en- 
groffes the attention ; and therefore we fpeak of 
it, as if it were felt only, and not perceived : 
Whereas, in feeing a coloured body, the fenfa- 
tion is indifferent, and draws no attention. The 
quality in the body, which we call its colour, is 
the only object of attention ; and therefore we 
fpeak of it, as if it were perceived, and not felt. 
Though all Philofophers agree that in feeing co- 
lour there is fenfation, it is not eafy to perfuade 



the vulgar, that, in feeing a coloured body, when 
the light is not too ftrong, nor t{ie eye inflamed, 
they have any fenfation or feeling at all. 

There are fome fenfations, which, though they 
are very often felt, are never attended to, nor re- 
fled upon. We have no conception of them ; 
and therefore, in language, there is neither any 
name for them, nor any form of fpeech that fup- 
pofes their exiftence. Such are the fenfations of 
colour, and of all primary qualities ; and there- 
fore thofe qualities are faid to be perceived, but 
not to be felt. Tafle and fmell, and heat and 
cold, have fenfations that are often agreeable or 
difagreeable, in fuch a degree as to draw our at- 
tention ; and they are fometimes faid to be felt, 
and fometimes to be perceived. When diforders 
of the body occalion very acute pain, the uneafy 
fenfation engroiTes the attention, and they are 
faid to be felt, not to be perceived. 

There is another queftion relating to phrafe- 
ology, which this fubjecl fuggefts. A man fays, he 
feels pain in fuch a particular part of his body ; in 
his toe, for inftance. Now, reafon aflures us, that 
pain being a fenfation, can only be in the fenti- 
ent being, as its fubjecl, that is, in the mind. 
And though Philofophers have difputed much 
about the place of the mind ; yet none of them 
ever placed it in the toe. What fhall we fay 
then in this cafe ? do our fenfes really deceive us, 
and make us believe a thing which our reafon 
A a 2 determines 

37* ESSAY n. [chap. 18. 

determines to be impoflible ? I anfwer, firft, 
That, when a man fays he has pain, in his toe, 
he is perfectly underftood, both by hirafelf, and 
thofe who hear him. This is all that he intends. 
He really feels what he and all men call a pain 
in the toe ; and there is no deception in the mat- 
ter. Whether therefore there be any impro- 
priety in the phrafe or not, is of no confeguence 
in common life. It anfwers all the ends of 
fpeech, both to the fpeaker and the hearers. 

In all languages, there are phrafes which have 
a diftinct meaning ; while, at the fame time, 
there may be fomething in the ft ru&ure of them 
that difagrees with the analogy of grammar, or 
with the principles of philofophy. And the 
reafon is, becaufe language is not made either by 
Grammarians or Philofophers. Thus we fpeak 
of feeling pain, as if pain was fomething diftinct 
from the feeling of it. We fpeak of a pain com- 
ing and going, and removing from one place to 
another. Such phrafes are meant by thofe who 
ufe them in a fenfe that is neither obfcure nor 
falfe. But the Philofopher puts them into his 
alembic, reduces them to their fTrft principles, 
draws out of them a fenfe that was never meant, 
and fo imagines that he has difcovered an error 
pf the vulgar. 

I obferve, fecondly, That, when we confider 
the fenfation of pain by itfef, without any re- 
fpect to its caufe, we cannot fay with propriety, 



that the toe is either the place., or the fubject of 
it. But it ought to be remembred, that when we 
fpeak of pain in the toe, the fenfatkm is com- 
bined in our thought, with the caufe of it, which 
really is in the toe. The caufe and the effect 
are combined in one complex, notion, and the 
• fame name ferves for both. It is the bufinefs of 
the Philofopher to analyfe tHis complex notion, 
and to give different names to its different in- 
gredients. He gives the name of pain to the fen- 
fation only, and the name of diforder to the un- 
known caufe of it. Then it is evident that the 
diforder only is in the toe, and that it would be 
an error to think that the pain is in it. But we 
ought not to afcribe this error to the Vulgar, who 
never made the diftinclion, and who under the 
name of pain comprehend both the fenfation and 
its caufe. 

Cafes fometimes happen, which give occafion 
even to the vulgar to difiinguiih the painful fenfa- 
tion from the diforder which is the caufe of it. 
A man who has had his leg cut off, many years 
after, feels pain in a toe of that leg. The toe has 
now no exiftence ; and he perceives eaiily, that 
the toe can neither be the place, nor the fubjedt 
of the pain which he feels ; yet it is the fame 
feeling he ufed to have from a hurt in the toe ; 
and if he did not know that his leg was cut off, 
it would give him the fame immediate convic- 
tion of fome hurt or diforder in the toe. 

A a 3 the 

374 ESSAY II. [chap. i& 

The fame phenomenon may lead the Philofo- 
pher, in all cafes, to diftinguifh fenfation from 
perception. We fay, that the man had a deceits 
ful feeling, when he felt a pain in his toe after 
the leg was cut off ; and we have a true mean- 
ing in faying fo. But, if we will fpeak accurate- 
ly, our fenfations cannot be deceitful ; they mull 
be what we feel them to be, and can be nothing 
elfe. Where then lies the deceit ? I anfwer, it 
lies not in the fenfation, which is real, but in the 
feeming perception he had of a diforder in his 
toe. This perception, which Nature had con- 
joined with the fenfation, was in this inftance 

The fame reafoning may be applied to every 
phenomenon that can, with propriety, be called 
a deception of fenfe. As when one, who has 
the jaundice, fees a body yellow, which is really 
white ; or when a man fees an object double, 
becaufe his eyes are not both directed to it ; in 
thefe, and other like cafes, the fenfations we have 
are real, and the deception is only in the per- 
ception which Nature has annexed to them. 

Nature has connected our perception of ex- 
ternal objects with certain fenfations. If the 
fenfation is produced, the correfponding per- 
ception follows even when there is no objedt, 
and in the cafe is apt to deceive us. In like 
manner, Nature has connected our fenfations with 
certain impreffions that are made upon the 
nerves and brain : And, when the impremon is- 

made ? 


made, from whatever caufe, the correfponding 
fenfation and perception immediately follows. 
Thus, in the man who feels pain in his toe after 
the leg is cut off, the nerve that went to the toe, 
part of which was cut off with the leg, had the 
fame impreflion made upon the remaining part, 
which, in the natural ftate of his body, wai 
caufed by a hurt in the toe : And immediately 
this impreflion is followed by the fenfation and 
perception which Nature connected with it. 

In like manner, if the fame impreflions, which 
are made at*prefent upon my optic nerves by the 
objects before me, could be made in the dark, 
I apprehend that I mould have the fame fenfa- 
tions, and fee the fame objects which I now fee. 
The impreflions and feiifations would in fuch a 
cafe be real, and the perception only fallacious. 

Let us next conftder the notions which our 
fenfes give us of thofe attributes of bodes called 
powers. This is the more neceffary, becaufe 
power feems to imply fome activity ; yet we con- 
flder body as a dead inactive thing, which does 
not act, but may be acted upon. 

Of the mechanical powers afcribed to bodies, 
that which is called their vis injtta, or inertia, 
may firft be coniidered. By this is meant, no 
more than that bodies never change their ftate 
of themfelves, either from reft to motion, or 
from motion to reft, or from one degree of velo- 
city, or one direction to another. In order to 

A a 4 produce 

376 ESSAY II. [CHAP. l8. 

produce any fuch change, there mull be fome 
force impreffed upon them ; and the change 
produced is precifely proportioned to the force 
impreffed, and in the direction of that force. 

That all bodies have this property, is a mat- 
ter of fact, which we learn from daily obferva- 
tion, as well as from the moll accurate experi- 
ments. Now it feems plain, that this does not 
imply any activity in body, but rather the con- 
trary. A power in body to change its Hate, 
would much rather imply activity than its con- 
tinuing in the fame Hate : So that, although 
this property of bodies is called their vis injita, 
or vis inertia, it implies no proper activity. 

If we conlider, next, the power of gravity, it 
is a fact, that all the bodies of our planetary fy- 
ilem gravitate towards each other. This has 
been fully proved by the great Newton. But 
this gravitation is not conceived by that Philo- 
fopher to be a power inherent in bodies, which 
they exert of themfelves, but a force impreffed 
upon them, to which they mull neceffarily yield. 
Whether this force be impreffed by fome fubtile 
aether, or whether it be impreffed by the power 
of the Supreme Being, or of fome fubordinate 
fpiritual being, we do not know ; but all found 
natural philofophy, particularly that of New- 
ton, fuppofes it to be an impreffed force, and 
not inherent in bodies. 



So that, when bodies gravitate, they do not 
properly act, but are acted upon : They only 
yield to an impreffion that is made upon them. 
It is common in language to exprefs> by active 
verbs, many changes in things, wherein they 
are merely paffive : And this way of fpeaking 
is ufed chiefly when the caufe of the change is 
not obvious to fenfe. Thus we fay that a lliip 
fails, when every man of common fenfe knows 
that fhe has no inherent power of motion, and 
is only driven by wind and tide. In like man- 
ner, when we fay that the planets gravitate to- 
wards the fun, we mean no more, but that, by 
fome unknown power, they are drawn or im- 
pelled in that direction. 

What has been faid of the power of gravita- 
tion may be applied to other mechanical powers, 
fuch as cohefion, magnetifm, electricity ; and no 
lefs to chemical and medical powers. By all 
thefe, certain effects are produced, upon the ap- 
plication of one body to another. Our fenfes 
difcover the effect ; but the power is latent. 
We know there mud be a caufe of the effect 
and we form a relative notion of it from its ef- 
fect ; and very often the fame name is ufed to 
fignifv the unknown caufe, and the known ef- 

We afcribe to vegetables, the powers of draw- 
ing nouriihment, growing and multiply inn- their 
kind. Here likewife the effect is manifeft, but 

378 ESSAY II. [chap. ig. 

the caufe is latent to fenfe. Thefe powers, 
therefore, as well as all the other powers we a- 
fcribe to bodies, are unknown caufes of certain 
known effects. It is the bufinefs of philofophy 
to inveftigate the nature of thofe powers as far 
as we are able, but our fenfes leave us in the 

We may obferve a great fimilarity in the no- 
tions which our fenfes give us of fecondary qua- 
lities, of the diforders we feel in our own bodies, 
and of the various powers of bodies which we 
have enumerated. They are all obfcure and re- 
lative notions, being a conception of fome un- 
known caufe of a known effect.. Their names 
are, for the moll part, common to the effect, and 
to its caufe ; and they are a proper fubjecl of 
philofophical difquifition. They might there- 
fore, I think, not improperly, be called occult 

This name, indeed, is fallen into difgrace fince 
the time of Des Cartes. It is faid to have 
been ufed by the Peripatetics to cloke their ig- 
norance, and to flop all inquiry into the nature 
of thofe qualities called occult. Be it fo. Let 
thofe anfwer for this abufe of the word who 
were guilty of it. To call a thing occult, if we 
attend to the meaning of the word, is rather mo- 
deftly to confefs ignorance than to cloke it. It 
is to point it out as a proper fubje<5t for the in- 
veftigation of Philofpphers, whofe proper bun- 



nefs it is to better the condition of humanity, 
by difcovering what was before hid from hu- 
man knowledge. 

Were I therefore to make a divifion of the 
qualities of bodies as they appear to our fenfes, 
I would divide them firft into thofe that are 
manifeft, and thofe that are occult. The mani- 
feft qualities are thofe which Mr Locke calls 
primary; fuch as extenfion, figure, divifibility, 
motion, hardnefs, foftnefs, fluidity. The nature 
of thefe is manifeft even to fenfe ; and the bufi- 
nefs of the Philofopher with regard to them, is 
not to find out their nature, which is well 
known, but to difcover the effects produced by 
their various combinations ; and with regard to 
thofe of them which are not effential to matter, 
to difcover their caufes as far as he is able. 

The fecond clafs confifts of occult qualities, 
which may be fubdivided into various kinds ; 
as firfi, the fecondary qualities ; fecondly, the 
diforders we feel in our own bodies ; and, third- 
ly, all the qualities which we call powers of 
bodies, whether mechanical, chemical, medical, 
animal or vegetable ; or if there be any other 
powers not comprehended under thefe heads. 
, Of all thefe the exiftence is manifeft to fenfe, 
but the nature is occult ; and here the Philofo- 
pher has an ample field. 

What is necefLry for the conduct of our ani- 
mal life, the bountiful Author of Nature hath 


380 ESSAY II. [CHAP. l8. 

made manifeft to all men. But there are many 
other choice fecrets of Nature, the difcovery of 
which enlarges the power, and exalts the flate of 
man. Thefe are left to be difcovered by the 
proper ufe of our rational powers. They are hid, 
not that they may be always concealed from hu- 
man knowledge, but that we may be excited to 
fearch for them. This is the proper bulinefs of 
a Philofopher, and it is the glory of a man, and 
the bell reward of his labour, to difcover what 
Nature has thus concealed. 


Of Matter and of Space, 

THE objects of fenfe we have hitherto con- 
lidered are qualities. But qualities mult 
have a fubject. We give the names of matter, 
material fubftance, and body, to the fubject of 
feniible qualities ; and it may be afked, what 
this matter is ? 

I perceive in a billiard ball, figure, colour, 
and motion ; but the ball is not figure, nor is it 
colour, nor motion, nor all thefe taken together ; 
it is fomething that has figure, and colour, and 
motion. This is a dictate of Nature, and the 
belief of all mankind. 

As to the nature of this fomething, I am 
afraid we can give little account of it, but that 




it has the qualities which our fenfes difco- 

But how do we know that they are qualities, 
and cannot exift without a fubject, ? I confefs 
I cannot explain how we know that they can- 
not exift without a fubjed, any more than I 
can explain how we know that they exift. 
We have the information of nature for their 
exiftenee ; and I think we have the information 
of nature that they are qualities. 

The belief that figure, motion, and colour, 
are qualities, and require a fubjecl, muft either 
be a judgment of nature, or it muft be difco- 
vered by reafon, or it muft be a prejudice that 
has no juft foundation. There are Fhilofophers 
who maintain, that it is a mere prejudice ; that 
a body is nothing but a collectien of what we 
call fenlible qualities ; and that they neither 
have nor need any fubject. This is the opinion 
of Bifhop Berkeley and Mr Hume ; and they 
were led to it by finding, that they had not in 
their minds any idea of fubftance. It could nei- 
ther be an idea of fenfation nor of reflection.. 

But to mc nothing feems more abfurd, than 
that there fhould be extenfion without any thing 
extended ; or motion without any thing moved; 
yet I cannot give reafons for my opinion, becaufe 
it feems to me felf-evident, and an immediate 
dictate of my nature. 

And that it is the belief of all mankind, ap- 
pears in the ftrueture of all languages \ in which 


3&2 ESSAY II. [CHAP. I9. 

we find adjective nouns ufed to exprefs fenfible 
qualities. It is well known that every adjective 
in language mull belong to fome fubftantive ex- 
prefTed or underftood ; that is, every quality muft 
belong to fome fubjecl:. 

Senfible qualities make fb great a part of the 
furniture of our minds, their kinds are fo many, 
and their number fo great, that if prejudice, and 
not nature, teach us to afcribe them all to a fub- 
ject, it muft have a great work to perform,which 
cannot be accomplifhed in a fhort time, nor car- 
ried on to the fame pitch in every individual. 
We mould find not individuals only, but nations 
and ages, differing from each other in the pro- 
grefs which this prejudice had made in their 
fentiments ; but we find no fuch difference 
among men. What one man accounts a quality, 
all men do, and ever did. 

It feems therefore to be a judgment of nature, 
that the things immediately perceived are qua- 
lities, which muft belong to a fubjed ; and all 
the information that our fenfes give us about this 
fubjecl, is, that it is that to which fuch qualities 
belong. From this it is evident, that our notion 
of body or matter, as diflinguifhed from its qua- 
lities, is a relative notion ; and I am afraid it 
muft always be obfcure until men have other 

The Philofopher in this feems to have no ad- 
vantage above the vulgar ; for as they perceive 



colour, and figure, and motion by their fenfes 
as well as he does, and both are equally certain 
that there is a fubject of thofe qualities, fo the 
notions which both have of this fubjec~t are equally 
obfcure. When the Philofopher calls it afub- 
Jlratum, and a fubjecT; of inhefion, thofe learned 
words convey no meaning but what every man 
understands and expreffes, by faying in common 
language, that it is a thing extended, and folid, 
and moveable. 

The relation which fenlible qualities bear to 
their fubjecT:, that is, to body, is not, however, 
fo dark, but that it is eafily diitinguifhed from 
all other relations. Every man can diftinguifh 
it from the relation of an effect to its caufe ; of 
a mean to its end ; or of a fign to the thing 
fignified by it. 

I think it requires fome ripenefs of underftand- 
ing to diftinguifh the qualities of a body from 
the body. Perhaps this diftinction is not made 
by brutes, nor by infants ; and if any one thinks 
that this diftin&ion is not made by our fenfes, 
but by fome other power of the mind, I will 
not difpute this point, provided it be granted, 
that men, when their faculties are ripe, have a 
natural conviction, that feniible qualities cannot 
exift by themfelves without fome fubjecT: to 
which they belong. 

I think, indeed, that fome of the determina- 
tions we form concerning matter cannot be de- 

3S4 zssay ii. [chap. 19. 

duced lclely from the teftimony of fenle, but 
mod be referred to iome other iource. 

There feems to be nothing mere evident, than 
that all bodies muil coirfiit of parts ; and that 
every part of a body is a body, and a dirlinct be- 
ing which may exift without the other parts ; 
and yet I apprehend this concluGon is not dedu- 
ced iblely from the teftimony of feme : For, be- 
fides that it is a neceffary truth, and therefore 
no object of feme, there is a limit beyond which 
we cannot perceive any tfiviflon of a body. 
Toe par.s became too imall to be perceived by 
oar fenfes : but we cannot believe that it be- 
comes then incapable of being farther divided, 
or that fnch _: vi Son would make it not to be a 

We carry on coe divider: and lhbbodden in 
cor :h:oro: far beyond the reach of our fenfes,- 
and we can End no er.d to it : Nay, I think we 
plainly Irfcern, that there can be no limit be- 
yond which the diviflon cannot be carried. 

For if there be any Emit to this doib on, one 
of two thin oe rood necefiarily happen. Either 
we have come 'z,y drvifion to a body which is 
exteooed. but boo 0: parts, and is absolutely in- 
divinble ; or this body is drvifible, but as foon as 
it is divided, it bee:- roes o: buy. Both thefe 
pedtiens feem to me aboard, and coe :: the other 
is the ne:eoo:vccnfequence of fuppofing a limit 
tc the dmfibiKty of matter. 



On the other hand, if it is admitted that the 
divilibility of matter has no limit, it will follow, 
that no body can be called one individual fub- 
itance. You may as well call it two, or twenty, 
or two hundred. For when it is divided into 
parts, every part is a being or iubltance diitinct, 
from all the other parts, and was fo even before 
the diviiion : Any one part may continue to 
exiit, though all the other parts were, annihi- 

There is, indeed, a principle long received, 
as an axiom in metaphyiics, which I cannot re- 
concile to the divilibility of matter. It is, That 
every being is one, omne ens eft u.'iwn. By which, 
1 fuppofe, is meant, that every thing that exiiis 
mull either be one indivifible being, or compofed 
of a determinate number of indivifible beings. 
Thus an army may be divided into regiments, 
a regiment into companies, and a company into 
men. But here the diviiion has- its- limit : for 
you cannot divide a man without deltroying 
him, becauie he is an individual ; and every 
thing, according to this axiom, mult -be an indi- 
vidual, or made up of individuals. 

That this axiom will hold with regard to an 
army, and with regard to many other things, 
muft be granted : But I require the evidence of 
its being applicable to all beings w hat fo ever. 

Leibnitz, ( conceiving that all beings mult 
have this metaphyseal unity, was- by this led to 

Vol. I. B b maintain, 

$$6 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 19* 

maintain, that matter, and indeed the whole u- 
niverfe, is made up of monades, that is, Ample- 
and indivifible fubftances. 

Perhaps the fame apprehenfion might lead 
Boscovich into his hypothefis, which feems 
much more ingenious; to wit, that matter is- 
compofed of a definite number of mathematical 
points, endowed with certain powers of attrac- 
tion and repulfion. 

The divifibility of matter without any limit, 
feems to me more tenable than either of thefe 
hypothefes ; nor do I lay much ftrefs upon the 
metaphyseal axiom, considering its origin. Me- 
taphyficians thought proper to make the attri- 
butes common to all beings the fubjecl: of a 
fcience. It mult be a matter of fome difficulty 
to find out fuch attributes : And, after racking 
their invention, they have fpecified three, to 
wit, unity, verity, and goodnefs ; and thefe, I 
fuppofe, have been invented to a make a num- 
ber, rather than from any clear evidence of their 
being univerfal. 

There are other determinations concerning 
matter, which, I think, are not folely founded 
upon the teflimony of fenfe : Such as, that it is 
impoffible that two bodies mould occupy the 
fame place at the fame time ; or that the fame 
body ihould be in different places at the fame 
time ; or that a body can be moved from one 
place to another, without palling through the 



intermediate places, either in a ftraight courfe, 
or by fome circuit. Thefe appear to be necefTa- 
ry truths, and therefore cannot be conclufions of 
our fenfes ; for our fenfes teftify only what is, 
and not what muft neceffarily be. 

We are next to conlider our notion of fpace. 
It may be obferved, that although fpace be not 
perceived by any of our fenfes when all matter 
is removed \ yet, when we perceive any of the 
primary qualities, fpace prefents itfelf as a necef- 
iary concomitant : For there can neither be ex- 
tension, nor motion, nor figure, nor divifion, 
nor cohefion of parts without fpace. 

There are only two of our fenfes by which the 
notion of fpace enters into the mind ; to wit, 
touch and light. If we fuppofe a man to have 
neither of thefe fenfes, I do not fee how he could 
ever have any conception of fpace. Suppofing 
him to have both, until he fees or feels other ob- 
jects, he can have no notion of fpace : It has 
neither colour nor figure to make it an object of 
fight : It has no tangible quality to make 
it an object of touch. But other objects of light 
and touch carry the notion of fpace along with 
them ; and not the notion only, but the belief 
of it : For a body could not exift if there was 
no fpace to contain it : It could not move if 
there was no fpace : Its lituation, its diitance, 
and every relation it has to other bodies, fuppofe 

B b 2 But 

388 essay ii. [chap. 19. 

But though the notion of fpace feems not to 
enter at fir it into the mind, until it is introdu- 
ced by the proper objects of fenfe ; yet, being 
once introduced, it remains in our conception 
and belief, though the objects which introduced 
it be removed. We fee no abfurdity in fuppo- 
iing a body to be annihilated ; but the fpace 
that contained it remains ; and to fuppofe that 
annihilated, feems to be abfurd. It is fo much 
allied to nothing or emptinefs, that it feems in- 
capable of annihilation or of creation. 

Space not only retains a firm hold of our be- 
lief, even when we fuppofe all the objects that 
introduced it to be annihilated, but it fwells to 
immenfity. We can fet no limits to it, either of 
extent or of duration. Hence we call it im- 
menfe, eternal, immoveable, and indeftructible. 
But it is only an immenfe, eternal, immoveable, 
and indeftruftible void or emptinefs. Perhaps 
we may apply to it what the Peripatetics faid of 
their firft matter, that whatever it is, it is po- 
tentially only, not actually. 

When we coniider parts of fpace that have 
meafure and figure, there is nothing we under- 
ftand better, nothing about which we can reafon 
fo- clearly, and to fo great extent. Extenfion 
and figure are circumfcribed parts of .fpace, and 
are the object of geometry, a fcience in which 
human reafon has the moft ample field, and can 
go deeper, and with more certainty than in any 



»ther. But when we attempt to comprehend 
the whole of fpace, and to trace it to its origin, 
we lofe ourfelves in the fearch. The profound 
fpeculations of ingenious men upon this fubject 
differ fo widely, as may lead us to fufped:, that 
the line of human underftanding is too fhort to 
reach the bottom of it. 

Bifhop Berkeley, I think, was the fh-ft who 
■obferved, that the exteniion, figure, and fpace, 
of which we fpeak in common language, and of 
which geometry treats, are originally perceived 
by the fenfe of touch only; but that there is a 
notion of exteniion, figure, and fpace, which 
may be got by fight, without any aid from 
touch. To diftinguifh thefe, he calls the firft 
tangible exteniion, tangible figure, and tangible 
fpace ; the laft he calls vifible. 

As I think this diftinction very important in 
the philofophy of our fenfes, 1 mall adopt the 
names ufed by the inventor to exprefs it \ re- 
membering what has been already obferved, that 
fpace, whether tangible or vifible, is not fo pro- 
perly an object of fenfe, as a neceffary concomi- 
tant of the objects both of fight and touch. 

The reader may likewife be pleafed to attend 
to this, that when I ufe the names of tangible 
and vifible fpace, I do not mean to adopt Bifhop 
Berkeley's opinion, fo far as to think that they 
are really different things,;and altogether unlike. 
4 take them Jo be different conceptions of the 
B b 3 fame 

390 ESSAY II. [chap. 19. 

fame thing ; the one very partial, and the other 
more complete ; but both diftinct and juft, as 
far as they reach. 

Thus when I fee a fpire at a very great dif- 
tance, it feems like the point of a bodkin ; there 
appears no vane at the top, no angles. But 
when I view the fame object at a fmall diftance, 
I fee a huge pyramid of feveral angles with a 
vane on the top. Neither of thefe appearances 
is fallacious. Each of them is what it ought to 
be, and what it mull be, from fuch an object: 
feen at fuch different diftances. Thefe different 
appearances of the fame objecl: may ferve to il- 
luftrate the different conceptions of fpace, ac- 
cording as they are drawn from the information 
of light alone, or as they are drawn from the 
additional information of touch. 

Our fight alone, unaided by touch, gives a ve- 
ry partial notion of fpace, but yet a diftinct one. 
When it is confidered, according to this partial 
notion, I call it vilible fpace. The fenfe of 
touch gives a much more complete notion of 
fpace ; and when it is coniidered according to 
this notion, I call it tangible fpace. Perhaps 
there may be intelligent beings of a higher or- 
der, whofe conceptions of fpace are much more 
complete than thofe we have from both fenfes. 
Another fenfe added to thofe of fight and 
touch, might, for what I know, give us concep- 
tions of fpace, as different from thofe we can 



now attain, as tangible fpace is from vifible - f 
and might refolve many knotty points concern- 
ing it, which, from the imperfedion of our fa- 
culties, we cannot by any labour untie. 

Berkeley acknowledges that there is an exad 
correfpondence between the vifible figure and 
magnitude of objeds, and the tangible ; and 
that every modification of the one has a modi- 
fication of the other correfponding. He ac- 
knowledges likewife, that Nature has eflablifhed 
fuch a connection between the vifible figure and 
magnitude of an object, and the tangible, that 
we learn by experience to know the tangible fi- 
gure and magnitude from the vifible. And ha- 
ving been accuftomed to do fo from infancy, we 
get the habit of doing it with fuch facility and 
quicknefs, that we think we fee tangible figure, 
magnitude, and diftance of bodies, when, in re- 
ality, we only colled thole tangible qualities 
from the correfponding vifible qualities, which 
are natural figns of them. 

The correfpondence and connection which 
Berkeley fhews to be between the vifible figure 
and magnitude of objects, and their tangible fi- 
gure and magnitude, is in fome refpeds very 
fimilar to that which we have obferved between 
our ienfations, and the primary qualities with 
\vhich they are conneded. No fooner is the 
fenfation felt, than immediately we have the 
conception and belief of the correfponding qua- 
B b 4 lity. 

392 essay ii. [chap. 19. 

iity. We give no attention to the fenlation ; it 
h^s not a name ; and it is difficult to perfuade 
us that there was any fuch thing. 

In like manner, no fooner is the vifible figure 
and magnitude of an object feen, than immedi- 
ately we have the conception and belief of the 
correfponding tangible figure and magnitude. 
We give no attention to the vifible figure and 
magnitude. It is immediately forgot, as if it had 
never been perceived; and it has no name in 
common language : and indeed, until Berkeley 
pointed it out as a fubject of Speculation, and 
gave it a name, it had none among Philofophers, 
excepting in one initance, relating to the heaven- 
ly bodies, which are be\ ond the reach of touch. 
Wkh regard to them, what Berkeley calls vi- 
fible magnitude, was, by Aitronomers, called 
apparent magnitude. 

There is iurelv an apparent magnitude, and 
an apparent figure of terreftrial objects, as well 
'as of celeitial ; and this is what Berkeley calls 
their vifible figure and magnitude. But this was 
never made an object of thought among Philo- 
fophers, until that author gave it a name, and 
obferved the correfpondence and connection be- 
tween it and tangible magnitude and figure, and 
how the mind gets the habit of pairing fo inftan- 
taneoufly from the vifible figure, as a iign to the 
tangible figure, as the thing fignified by it, that 
the firrt is perfectly forgot, as if it had never 
been perceived. 



Vifible figure, extenfion and fpace, may be 
made a fubject of mathematical fpeculatkm, as 
well as the tangible. In the viiible, we find two 
dimenfions only ; in the tangible three. In the 
one, magnitude is meafured by angles ; in the 
other by lines. Every part of vifible fpace bears 
fome proportion to the whole ; but tangible 
fpace being immenfe, any part of it bears no pro- 
portion to the whole. 

Such differences in their properties led Bifhop 
Berkeley to think, that vifible and tangible 
magnitude and figure, are things totally different 
and diflimilar, and cannot both belong to the 
fame object. 

And upon this diffimilitude is grounded one 
of the itrongeft arguments by which his fyftem 
is fupported. For it may be faid, if there be ex- 
ternal objects which have a real extenfion and 
figure, it mull be either tangible extenfion and 
figure, or vifible, or both. The laft appears ab- 
iurd ; nor was it ever maintained by any man, 
that the fame objecl has two kinds of extenfion 
and figure, totally diffimilar. There is then on- 
ly one of the two really in the object ; and the 
other muft be ideal. But no reafon can be af- 
figned why the perceptions of one fenfe mould 
be real, while thofe of another are only ideal ; 
and he who is perfuaded that the objects of fight 
are ideas only, has equal reafon to believe fo of 
the obje&s of touch. 


394 £ S S A Y II. fCHAP. 1$. 

This argument, however, lofes all its force, if 
it be true, as was formerly hinted, that vifible 
figure and extenfion are only a partial concep- 
tion, and the tangible figure and extenfion a more 
complete conception of that figure and extenfion 
which is really in the object. 

It has been proved very fully by Bifhop 
Berkeley, that fight alone, without any aid 
from the informations of touch, gives us no per- 
ception, nor even conception of the diftance of 
any objed from the eye. But he was not aware 
that this very principle overturns the argument 
for his fyftem, taken from the difference between 
vifible and tangible extenfion and figure : For, 
fuppofing external objects to exift, and to have 
that tangible extenfion and figure which we per- 
ceive, it follows demonftrably, from the principle 
now mentioned, that their vifible extenfion and 
figure mull be juft what we fee it to be. 

The rules of perfpective, and of the projection 
of the fphere, which is a branch of perfpective, 
are demonftrable. They fuppofe the exiftence 
of external, objects, which have a tangible ex- 
tenfion and figure ; and, upon that fuppofition, 
they demonftrate what muft be the vifible ex- 
tenfion and figure of fuch objects, when placed 
in fuch a pofition, and at fuch a diftance. 

Hence it is evident, that the vifible figure and 
extenfion of objects is fo Far from being incom- 
patible with the tangible, that the firft is a ne- 



•ceflary confequence from the laft, in beings that 
fee as we do. The correfpondence between them 
is not arbitrary, like that between words and the 
thing they fignify, as Berkeley thought ; but 
it refults neceiTarily from the nature of the two 
fenfes ; and this correfpondence being always 
found in experience to be exactly what the rules 
of perfpective fhow that it ought to be if the 
fenfes give true information, is an argument of the 
truth of both. j 


Of the Evidence of Senfe, and of Belief in general. 

' I 1 HE intention of Nature in the powers 
^ which we call the external fenfes, is evi- 
dent. They are intended to give us that infor- 
mation of external objeds which the Supreme 
Being faw to be proper for us in our prefent 
Hate ; and they give to all mankind the infor- 
mation necefiary for life, without reafoning, with- 
out any art or inveftigation on our part. 

The moft uninftructed peafant has as diftinct 
a conception, and as firm a belief of the imme- 
diate objects of his fenfes, as the greateft Philo- 
fopher ; and with this he refts fatisfied, giving 
himfelf no concern how he came by this concep- 
tion and belief. But the Philofopher is impa- 


50 $ S i A Y Tl. [CBAP. 20. 

tient to know how his conception of external 
objects, and his belief of their exiftence, is pro- 
duced. This> I am afraid, is hid in impenetra- 
ble darknefs. But where there is no knowledge, 
there is the more room for conjecture \ and of 
this Philofophers have always been very liberal. 

The dark cave and fhadows of Plato, the 
ipecies of Aristotle, the films of Epicurus, 
and the ideas and impreffions of modern Philo- 
fophers, are the productions of human fancy, 
fucceffively invented to fatisfy the eager defire 
of knowing how we perceive external objects ; 
but they are all deficient in the two effential 
characters of a true and philofophical account 
of the phenomenon : For we neither have any 
evidence of their exiftence, nor, if they did ex- 
ift, can it be fhewn how they would produce 

It was before obferved, that there are two in- 
gredients in this operation of perception : Fir/l, 
The conception or notion of the object ; and, 
fecondly, The belief of its prefent exiftence \ both 
are unaccountable. 

That v/e can affign no adequate caufe of our 
firft conceptions of things, I think, is now ac- 
knowledged by the molt enlightened Philofo- 
phers. We know that fuch is our conftitution, 
that in certain circumftances we have certain 
conceptions \ but how they are produced, we 



know no more than how we ourfelves were pro- 

When we have got the conception of.external 
objects by our fenfes, we can analyfe them in 
our thought into their fimple ingredients ; and 
we can compound thofe ingredients into various 
new forms, which the fenfes never prefented. 
But it is beyond the power of human imagina- 
tion to form any conception, whofe fimple in- 
gredients have not been furniihed by Nature in 
a manner unaccountable to our underft.anding. 

We have an immediate conception of the ope- 
rations of our own minds, joined with a belief 
of their exiftence ; and this we call confciouf- 
nefs. But this is only giving a name to this 
fource of our knowledge. It is not a difcovery 
of its caufe. In like manner, we have, by our 
external fenfes, a conception of external objects, 
joined with a belief of their exiftence ; and this 
we call perception. But this is only giving a 
name to another fource of our knowledge, with- 
out difcovering its caufe. 

We know, that when certain impreffions are 
made upon our organs, nerves, and brain, certain 
correfponding fenfations are felt, and certain ob- 
jects are both conceived and believed to exifL 
But in this train of operations Nauire works in 
the dark. We can neither difcover the caufe of 
any one of them, nor any neceffary connection 
jof one with another: And whether they are con- 

398 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 20, 

netted by any neceflary tie, or only conjoined 
in our conftitution by the will of Heaven, we 
know not. 

That any kind of impreffion upon a body 
fhould be the efficient caufe of fenfation, appears 
very abfurd. Nor can we perceive any neceflary 
connection between fenfation and the conception 
and belief of an external object. For any thing 
we can difcover, we might have been fo framed 
as to have all the fenfations we now have by our 
fenfes, without any impreffions upon our organs, 
and without any conception of any external ob- 
ject. For any thing we know, we might have 
been fo made as to perceive external objects, 
without any impreffions on bodily organs, and 
without any of thofe fenfations which inva- 
riably accompany perception in our prefent 

If our conception of external objects be un- 
accountable, the conviction and belief of their 
exiitence, which we get by our fenfes, is no lefs 



Belief, aflent, conviction, are words which I 
think do not admit of logical definition, becaufe 
the operation of mind fignified by them is per- 
fectly limple, and of its own kind, Nor do they 
need to be defined, becaufe they are common 
words, and well underftood. 

Belief mull have an object. For he that be- 
lieves, muft believe fomething ; and that which 



he believes is called the object of his belief. Of 
this object, of his belief, he rhuft have fome con- 
ception, clear or obfcure ; for although there 
may be the mod clear and diftinct conception of 
an object, without any belief of its exiftence, 
there can be no belief without conception. 

Belief is always exprefTed in language by a 
propofition, wherein fomething is affirmed or de- 
nied. This is the form of fpeech which in all 
languages is appropriated to that purpofe, and 
without belief there could be neither animation 
nor denial, nor mould we have any form of 
words to exprefs either. Belief admits of all 
degrees from the flighteft fufpicion to the fulleit 
afTurance. Thefe things are fo evident to every 
man that reflects, that it would be abufing the 
reader's patience to dwell upon them. 

I proceed to obferve, that there are many ope- 
rations of mind in which, when we analyfe them 
as far as we are able, we find belief to be an ef- 
fential ingredient. A man cannot be confeious 
of his own thoughts, without believing that he 
thinks. He cannot perceive an object of fenfe, 
without believing that it exifts. He cannot di- 
itinctly remember a paft event without believing 
that it did exifl. Belief therefore is an ingre- 
dient in confeioufnefs, in perception, and in re- 

Not only in moft of our intellectual opera- 
tions, but in many of the active principles of 


400 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 20. 

the human mind, belief enters as an ingredient. 
Joy and for row, hope and fear, imply a belief of- 
good or ill, either prefent or in expectation. 
Efteem, gratitude, pity, and refentment, imply a 
belief of certain qualities in their objects. In eve- 
ry action that is done for an end, there mult be 
a belief of its tendency to that end. So large a 
(hare has belief in our intellectual operations,, in 
our active principles, and in our actions them- 
felves, that as faith in things divine is reprefented 
as the main fpring in the life of a Chriftian, fo 
belief in general is the main fpring in the life of 
a man. 

That men often believe what there is no juft 
ground to believe, and thereby are led into hurt- 
ful errors, is too evident to be denied : And, on 
the other hand, that there are juft grounds of be- 
lief, can as little be doubted by any man who is 
not a perfect fceptic. 

We give the name of evidence to whatever is 
a ground of belief. To believe without evidence 
is a weaknefs which every man is concerned to 
avoid, and which every man wifhes to avoid. 
Nor is it in a man's power to believe any thing 
longer than he thinks he has evidence. 

What this evidence is, is more eafily felt than 
defcribed. Thofe who never reflected upon its 
nature, feel its influence in governing their be- 
lief. It is the bufinefs of the Logician to ex- 
plain its nature, and to diftinguifh its various 



kinds and degrees ; but every man of under- 
ftanding can judge of it, and commonly judges 
right, when the evidence is fairly laid before 
him, and his mind is free from prejudice. A 
man who knows nothing of the theory of virion^ 
may have a good eye ; and a man who never 
fpeculated about evidence in the abftracl, may 
have a good judgment. 

The common occafions of life lead us to di j 
ftinguifh evidence into different kinds, to which 
we give names that are well under flood ; fuch as 
the evidence of fenfe, the evidence of memory, 
the evidence of confcioumefc, the evidence of 
teitimony, the evidence of axioms, the evidence 
of reafoning : All men of common undemand- 
ing agree, that each of thefe kinds of evidence 
may afford jufl ground of belief, and they 
agree very generally in the circumflances that 
ftrengthen or weaken them. 

Philofophers have endeavoured by analysing 
the different forts of evidence, to find out fome 
common nature wherein they all agree, and 
thereby to reduce them all to one. This was 
the aim of the fchoolmen in their intricate dis- 
putes about the criterion of truth. Des Cartes 
placed this criterion of truth in clear and di- 
ftinct perception, and laid it down as a maxim, 
that whatever we clearly and diltincrly \ erceive 
to be true, is true ; but it is difficult to know 
what he underilands by clear and diftindl per- 

Vol, I. C c ceptioc 

402 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 20. 

eeption in this maxim. Mr Locke placed it in 
a perception of the agreement or difagreement 
of our ideas, which perception is immediate in 
intuitive knowledge, and by the intervention of 
other ideas in reafoning. 

I confefs that, although I have, as I think, a 
diftincl notion of the different kinds of evidence 
above mentioned, and perhaps of fome others, 
which it is unneeefiary here to enumerate, yet 
I am not able to find any common nature to 
which they may all be reduced. They feem to 
me to agree only in this, that they are all fitted 
by Nature to produce belief in the human mind^ 
fome of them in the higheft degree, which we 
call certainty, others in various degrees accord- 
ing to circumflances. 

I fhall take it for granted, that the evidence of 
fenfe, when the proper circumflances concur, is 
good evidence, and a juft ground of belief. My 
intention in this place is only to compare it with 
the other kinds that have been mentioned, that 
we may judge whether it be reducible to any of 
them, or of a nature peculiar to itfelf. 

Fir/?, It feems to be quite different from the 
evidence of reafoning. All good evidence is 
commonly called reafonable evidence, and very 
juftly, becaufe it ought to govern our belief as 
reafonable creatures. And, according to this 
meaning, I think the evidence of ferrie no lefs 
reafonable than that of demonftration. If Na- 


ture give us information of things that concern 
us, by other means than by reafoning, reafon it- 
felf will direct us to receive that information 
with thankfulnefs, and to make the belt ufe of it. 

But when we fpeak of the evidence of reafon- 
ing as a particular kind of evidence, it means the 
evidence of proportions that are inferred by rea- 
foning, from propofitions already known and be- 
lieved. Thus the evidence of the fifth propoii- 
tion of the firft book of Euclid's Elements con- 
lifts in this, That it is mown to be the neceflary 
confequence of the axioms, and of the preceding 
propoiitions. In all reafoning, there muft be 
one or more premiies, and a conclufion drawn 
from them. And the premifes are called the 
reafon why we muft; believe the conclufion which 
we fee to follow from them. 

That the evidence of fenfe is of a different 
kind, needs little proof. No man feeks a rea- 
fon for believing what he fees or feels ; and if 
he did, it would be difficult to find one. But 
though he can give no reafon for believing his 
fenfes, his belief remains as firm as if it were 
grounded on demonftration. 

Many eminent Philofophers thinking it un- 
reafonable to believe, when they could not fhow 
a reafon, have laboured to furniih us with rea- 
fons for believing our fenfes ; but their leaions 
are very infufhcient, and will not bear exami- 
nation. Other Philofophers have Ihewen very 
C c 3 clearly 

404 ESSAY ii. [chap. 20. 

clearly the fallacy of thefe reafons, and have, as 
they imagine, difcovered invincible reafons 
againft this belief; but they have never been 
able either to fhake it in themfelves, or to con- 
vince others. The ftatefman continues to plod, 
the foldier to fight, and the merchant to export 
and import, without being in the Ieaft moved by 
the demonflrations that have been offered of the 
non-exiflence of thofe things about which they 
are fo ferioufly employed. And a man may as 
foon, by reafoning, pull the moon out of her 
orbit, as deftroy the belief of the objects of 

Shall we fay then that the evidence of fenfe 
is the fame with that of axioms, or felf-evident 
truths ? I anfwer,^r/?, That all modern Philofo- 
phers feem to agree, that the exiftence of the 
objects of fenfe is not felf-evident, becaufe fome 
of them have endeavoured to prove it by fubtile 
reafoning, others to refute it. Neither of thefe 
can confider it as felf-evident. 

Secondly, I would obferve, that the word axiom 
is taken by Philofophers in fuch a fenfe, as that 
the exiftence of the objects of fenfe cannot, with 
propriety, be called an axiom. They give the 
name of axiom only to felf-evident truths that 
are neceffary, and are not limited to time and 
place, but mult be true at all times, and in all 
places. The truths attefted by our fenfes are 



not of this kind ; they are contingent, and li- 
mited to time and place. 

Thus, that one is the half of two, is an axiom; 
It is equally true at all times, and in all places^ 
We perceive, by attending to the proportion it- 
felf, that it cannot but be true ; and therefore 
it is called an eternal, neceflary and immutable 
truth. That there is at prefent a chair on my 
right hand, and another on my left, is a truth 
attefted by my fenfes ; but it is not neceffary, 
nor eternal, nor immutable. It may not be true 
next minute ; and therefore, to call it an axiom, 
would, I apprehend, be to deviate from the com- 
mon ufe of the word. 

Thirdly, If the word axiom be put to fignify 
every truth which is known immediately, with- 
out being deduced from any antecedent truth, 
then the exiftence of the objects of fenfe may 
be called an axiom. For my fenfes give me as 
immediate conviction of what they teftify, as 
my understanding gives me of what is commonly 
called an axiom. 

There is no doubt an analogy between the 
evidence of fenfe and the evidence of teftimony. 
Hence we find in all languages the analogical 
expreffions of the teftimony of fenfe, of giving 
credit to our fenfes, and the like. But there is 
a real difference between the two, as well as a 
fimilitude. In believing upon teftimony, we 
rely upon the authority of a perfon whoteftifies: 
C c 3 But 

4©6 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 20, 

But we have no fuch authority for believing out 

Shall we fay then that this belief is the infpi- 
ration of the Almighty ? I think this may be 
faid in a good fenfe ; for I take it to be the im- 
mediate effect of our conftitution, which is the 
work of the Almighty. But if infpiration be 
underftood to imply a perfuafion of its coming 
from God, our belief of the objects of fenfe is 
not infpiration ; for a man would believe his 
fenfes though he had no notion of a Deity. He 
who is perfuaded that he is the workmanihip 
of God, and that it is a part of his conftitution 
to believe his fenfes, may think that a good rea- 
f on to confirm his belief : But he had the be- 
lief before he could give this or any other rea- 
fon for it. 

If we compare the evidence of fenfe with 
that of memory, we find a great refemblance, 
but {till fome difference. I remember diftinctly 
to have dined yefterday with fuch a company. 
What is the meaning of this ? It is, that I have 
a diftincl conception and firm belief of this pad 
event ; not by reafoning, not by teftimony, but 
immediately from my conftitution : And I give 
the name of memory to that part of my confti- 
tution, by which I have this kind of conviction 
of paft events. 

I fee a chair on my right hand. What is the 
meaning of this ? It is, that I have, by my con- 



ftitution, a diftincT: conception and firm belief of 
the prefent exiftence of the chair in fuch a place, 
and in fuch a polition; and I give the name of 
feeing to that part of my conftitution, by which 
I have this immediate conviction. The two ope- 
rations agree in the immediate conviction which 
they give. They agree in this alfo, that the 
things believed are not neceffary, but contingent, 
and limited to time and place. But they differ 
in two refpecls ; firft, That memory has fome- 
thing for its objecl: that did exift in time paft ; 
but the objecl: of fight, and of all the fenfes, mull 
be fomething which exifls at prefent. And, fe- 
condly, That I fee by my eyes, and only when 
they are directed to the object, and when it is 
illuminated. But my memory is not limited by 
any bodily organ that I know, nor by light and 
darknefs, though it has its limitations of another 

Thefe differences are obvious to all men, and 
very reafonably lead them to confider feeing and 
remembering as operations fpecifically different. 
But the nature of the evidence they give has a 
great refemblance. A like difference and a like 
refemblance there is between the evidence of fenfe 
and that of confcioufnefs, which I leave the rea- 
der to trace. 

As to the opinion, that evidence confifts in a 

perception of the agreement or difagreement of 

G c 4 ideas, 

408 ESSAY II. [chap. 20. 

ideas, we may have occafioirto eonfider it more 
particularly in another place. Here I only ob- 
ferve, that, when taken in the moil favourable 
fenfe, it may be applied with propriety to the 
evidence of reafoning, and to the evidence of 
fome axioms. But I cannot fee how, in any 
fenfe, it can be applied to the evidence of con- 
fcioufnefs, to the evidence of memory, or to that 
of the fenfes. 

When I compare the different kinds of evi- 
dence above mentioned, I confefs, after all, that 
the evidence of reafoning, and that of fome ne- 
celfary and felf-evident truths, feems to be the 
leaft myfterious, and the moft perfectly compre- 
hended ; and therefore I do not think it firange 
that Philofophers fhould have endeavoured to re- 
duce all kinds of evidence to thefe. 

When I fee a propolition to be felf-evident 
and neceffary, and that the fubjecl: is plainly in- 
cluded in the predicate, there feems to be no- 
thing more that I can defire, in order to under- 
flaad why I believe it. And when I fee a con- 
fequence that neceffarily follows from one or 
more felf-evident proportions, I want nothing 
more with regard to my belief of that confe- 
quence. The light of truth fo fills my mind in 
thefe cafes, that I can neither conceive, nor de- 
ijire any thing more fatisfying. 

On the other hand, when I remember diilincl- 
ly a pail event, or fee an object before my eyes, 



this commands my belief no lefs th n an axiom. 
But when, as a Philofopher, I reflect upon this 
belief, and want to trace it to its origin, I am 
not able to refolve il into neceflary and felf-evi- 
dent axioms, or conclufions that are neceflarily 
confequent upon them. I feem to want that 
evidence which I can belt comprehend, and 
which gives perfect fatisfaction to an inquifitive 
mind ; yet it is ridiculous to doubt, and I find 
it is not in my power. An attempt to throw off 
this belief, is like an attempt to fly, equally ri- 
diculous and impracticable. 

To a Philofopher, who has been accuftomed 
to think that the treafure of his knowledge is the 
acquifition of that reafoning power of which he 
boafts, it is no doubt humiliating to find, that 
his reafon can lay no claim to the greater part of 

By his reafon, he can difcover certain abftradl: 
and neceflary relations of things : But his know- 
ledge of what really exifts, or did exilt, comes 
by another channel, which is open to thofe who 
cannot reafon. He is led to it in the dark, and 
knows not how he came by it. 

It is no wonder that the pride of philofophy 
mould lead fome to invent vain theories, in or- 
der to account for this knowledge ; and others, 
who fee this to be impracticable, to fpurn at a 
knowledge they cannot account for, and vainly 
attempt to throw it off, as a reproach to their 


410 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 21. 


underftaftding. But the wife and the humble 
will receive it as the gift of Heaven, and endea- 
vour to make the beft ufe of it. 


Of the Improvement of the Senfes. 

OUR fenfes may be confidered in two views ; 
firji y As they afford us agreeable fenfations, 
or fubjedt us to fuch as are difagreeable ; and, 
fecondly, As they give us information of things 
that concern us. 

In the jirjl view, they neither require nor ad- 
mit of improvement. Both the painful and the 
agreeable fenfations of our external fenfes are 
given by nature for certain ends ; and they are 
given in that degree which is the moft proper 
for their end. By diminifhing or increafing 
them, we mould not mend, but mar the work 
of Nature. 

Bodily pains are indications of fome diforder 
or hurt of the body, and admonitions to ufe the 
belt means in our power to prevent or remove 
their caufes. As far as this can be done by tem- 
perance, exercife, regimen, or the fkill of the 
phyfician, every man hath fufficient inducement 
to do it. 



When pain cannot be prevented or removed, 
it is greatly alleviated by patience and fortitude 
of mind. While the mind is fuperior to pain, 
the man is not unhappy, though he may be ex- 
ercifed. It leaves no fting behind it, but rather 
matter of triumph and agreeable reflection, when 
borne properly, and in a good caufe. The Ca- 
nadians have taught us, that even favages may 
acquire a fuperiority to the moft excruciating 
pains ; and, in every region of the earth, inftan- 
ces will be found, where a fenfe of duty, of ho- 
nour, or even of worldly interefl, have triumph- 
ed over it. 

It is evident, that Nature intended for man, 
in his prefent Hate, a life of labour and toil, 
wherein he may be occafionally expofed to pain 
and danger : And the happieft man is not he 
who has felt leaft of thofe evils, but he whofe 
mind is fitted to bear them by real magnani- 

Our active and perceptive powers are improv- 
ed and perfected by ufe and exercife. This is 
the conflitution of Nature. But, with regard to 
the agreeable and difagreeable fenfations we 
have by our fenfes, the very contrary is an efta- 
blifhed conftitution of Nature : The frequent 
repetition of them weakens their force. Senfa- 
tions at firft very difagreeable, by ufe become 
tolerable, and at laft perfe&lv ind ffe.ent. And 
thofe that are at firft very agreeable, by frequent 


412 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 21. 

repetition become infipid, and at lafl: perhaps 
give difguit. Nature has fet limits to the plea- 
fures of fenfe, which we cannot pafs ; and all 
ftudied gratification of them, as it is mean and 
unworthy of a man, fo it is foolifh and fruitlefs. 

The man who, in eating and drinking, and in 
other gratifications of fenfe, obeys the calls of 
Nature, without affecting delicacies and refine- 
ments, has all the enjoyment that the fenfes can 
afford. If one could, by a foft and luxurious 
life, acquire a more delicate fenfibility to plea- 
fure, it mull be at the expence of a like fenfi- 
bility to pain, from which he can never promife 
exemption ; and at the expence of cherifhing 
many difeafes which produce pain. 

The improvement of our external fenfes, as 
they are the means of giving us information, is 
a fubjecl more worthy of our attention : For al- 
though they are not the noblefl and moll exalted 
powers of our nature, yet they are not the leaft 
ufeful. All that we know or can know of the 
material world, mull be grounded upon their in- 
formation ; and the Philofopher, as well as the 
day-labourer, mull be indebted to them for the 
largeft part of his knowledge. 

Some of our perceptions by the fenfes may be 
called original, becaufe they require no previous 
experience or learning ; but the far greatefl part 
is acquired, and the fruit of experience. 



Three of our fenfes, to wit, fmell, tafte, an4 
hearing, originally give us only certain fenfations. 
and a conviction that thefe fenfations are occa- 
iioned by fome external object. We give a name 
to that quality of the object by which it is fitted 
to produce fuch a fenfation, and connect that 
quality with the object, and with its other qua- 

Thus we learn, that a certain fenfation of 
fmell is produced by a rofe ; and that quality in 
the rofe, by which it is fitted to produce this 
fenfation, we call the fmell of the rofe. Here it 
is evident that the fenfation is original. The 
perception, that the rofe has that quality, which 
we call its fmell, is acquired. In like manner, 
we learn all thofe qualities in bodies, which we 
call their fmell, their tafte, their found. Thefe 
are all fecondary qualities, and we give the fame 
name to them which we give to the fenfations 
they produce ; not from any limilitude between 
the fenfation and the quality of the fame name, 
but becaufe the quality is fignified to us by the. 
fenfation as its fi gn, and becaufe our fenfes give 
us no other knowledge of the quality, but that it 
is fit to produce fuch a fenfation. 

By the other two fenfes, we have much more 
ample information. By fight, we learn to di- 
ftinguifh objects by their colour, in the fame 
manner as by their found, tafte, and fmell. By 
this fenfe, we perceive vifible objects to have ex- 

414 essay 11. [chap, it: 

tenfion in two dimenfions, to have vifible figure 
and magnitude, and a certain angular diftance 
from one another. Thefe I conceive are the 
original perceptions of fight. 

By touch, we not only perceive the tempera- 
ture of bodies as to heat and cold, which are fe- 
condary qualities, but we perceive originally 
their three dimenfions, their tangible figure and 
magnitude, their linear diftance from one ano- 
ther, their hardnefs, ibftnefs, or fluidity. Thefe 
qualities we originally perceive by touch only ; 
but, by experience, we learn to perceive all or 
moil of them by fight. 

We learn to perceive, by one fenfe, what ori- 
ginally could have been perceived only by ano- 
ther, by finding a connection between the ob- 
jects of the different fenfes. Hence the original 
perceptions, or the fenfations of one fenfe be- 
come figns of whatever has always been found 
connected with them ; and from the fign the 
mind pafles immediately to the conception and 
belief of the thing figmfied : And although the 
connection in the mind between the fign, and 
the thing fignified by it, be the effect of cuftom, 
this cuftom becomes a fecond nature, and it is 
difficult to diftinguifh it from the original power 
of perception. 

Thus, if a fphere of one uniform colour be fet 
before me, I perceive evidently by my eye its 
fpherical figure, and its three dimenfions. All 



the world will acknowledge, that by fight only, 
without touching it, I may be certain that it is 
a fphere ; yet it is no lefs certain, that, by the 
original power of fight, I could not perceive it 
to be a fphere, and to have three dimenlions. 
The eye originally could only perceive two di- 
menlions, and a gradual variation of colour on 
the different fides of the object. 

It is experience that teaches me that the va- 
riation of colour is an effect of fpherical convexi- 
ty, and of the diftribution of light and fhade. 
But fo rapid is the progrefs of the thought, from 
the effect to the caufe, that we attend only to 
the laft, and can hardly be perfuaded that we do 
not immediately fee the three dimenlions of the 

Nay, it may be obferved, that, in this cafe, 
the acquired perception in a manner effaces the 
original one ; for the fphere is feen to be of one 
uniform colour, though originally there would 
have appeared a gradual variation of colour : 
But that apparent variation, we learn to inter- 
pret as the effect of light and fhade falling upon 
a fphere of one uniform colour. 

A fphere may be painted upon a plane, fo ex- 
actly, as to be taken for a real fphere, when the 
eye is at a proper diftance, and in the proper 
point of view. We fay in this cafe, that the 
eye is deceived, that the appearance is fallaci- 
ous : But there is no fallacy in the original per- 
cept! on. 

416 ESSAY II. . [CHAP. 21. 

ception, but only in that which is acquired by 
cuftom. The variation of colour, exhibited to 
the eye by the painter's art, is the fame which 
Nature exhibits by the different degrees of light 
falling upon the convex furface of a fphere. 

In perception, whether original or acquired, 
there is fomething which may be called the 
fign, and fomething which is fignified to us, or 
brought to our knowledge by that fign. 

In original perception, the figns are the vari- 
ous fenfations which are produced by the im- 
preffions made upon our organs. The things 
fignified, are the objects perceived in confe- 
quence of thofe fenfations, by the original con- 
ftitution of our nature. 

Thus, when I grafp an ivory ball in my hand, 
I have a certain fenfation of touch. Although 
this fenfation be in the mind, and have no fimi- 
litude to any thing material, yet, by the laws of 
my conftitution, it is immediately followed by 
the conception and belief, that there is in my 
hand a hard fmooth body of a fpherical figure r 
and about an inch and a half in diameter. This 
belief is grounded neither upon reafoning, nor 
upon experience ; it is the immediate effect of 
my conftitution, and this I call original percep- 

In acquired perception, the fign may be either 
a fenfation, or fomething originally perceived. 
The thing figniued, is fomething, which, by ex- 


perience, has been found connected with that 

Thus, when the ivory ball is placed before 
my eye, I perceive by fight what I before per- 
ceived by touch, that the ball is fmooth, fpheri- 
cal, of fuch a diameter, and at fuch a diftance 
from the eye ; and to this is added the percep- 
tion of its colour. All thefe things I perceive 
by light diftinctly, and with certainty : Yet it is 
certain from principles of philofophy, that if I 
had not been accuftomed to compare the infor- 
mations of light with thofe of touch, I mould 
not have perceived thefe things by fight. I 
mould have perceived a circular object, having 
its colour gradually more faint towards the 
fhaded fide. But I mould not have perceived 
it to have three dimenfions, to be fpherical, to 
be of fuch a linear magnitude, and at fuch a di- 
flance from the eye. That thefe laft mentioned 
are not original perceptions of fight, but acqui- 
red by experience, is fufficiently evident from 
the principles of optics, and from the art of 
painters, in painting objects of three dimenfions, 
upon a plane which has only two. And it has 
been put beyond all doubt, by obfervations re- 
corded of feveralperfons, who having, by cataracts 
in their eyes, been deprived of fight from their 
infancy, have been couched and made to fee, after 
they came to years of understanding. 

Vol. I. D d Thofc 

418 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 21. 

Thofe who have had their eyefight from infan^ 
cy, acquire fuch perceptions fo early, that they 
cannot recollect the time when they had them 
not, and therefore make no diftinction between 
them and their original perceptions ; nor can 
they be eafily perfuaded, that there is any juft 
foundation for fuch a diftinction. In all langua- 
ges men fpeak with equal afiurance of their feeing 
objects to be fpherical or cubical, as of their feel- 
ing them to be fo ; nor do they ever dream, 
that thefe perceptions of fight were not as early 
and original as the perceptions they have of the 
fame objects by touch. 

This power which w T e acquire of perceiving 
things by our fenfes, which originally we mould 
not have perceived, is not the effect of any rea- 
foning on our part : It is the refult of our con- 
ftitution, and of the fituations in which we hap- 
pen to be placed. 

We are fo made, that when two things are 
found to be conjoined in certain circumftances, 
we are prone to believe that they are connected 
by nature, and will always be found together in 
like circumftances. The belief which we are 
led into in fuch cafes is not the effect of reafon- 
ing, nor does it arife from intuitive evidence in 
the thing believed ; it is, as I apprehend, the 
immediate effect of our conftitution : Accord- 
ingly it is ftrongeft in infancy, before our rea- 
soning power appears, before we are capable of 



drawing a conclufion from premifes. A child 
who has once burnt his finger in a candle, from 
that fingle inftance connects the pain of burn- 
ing with putting his finger in the candle, and 
believes that thefe two things mull go together. 
It is obvious, that this part of our conftitution 
is of very great ufe before we come to the ufe 
of reafon, and guards us from a thoufend mif- 
chiefs, which, without it, we would rufh into ; 
it may fometimes lead us into error, but the 
good effects of it far overbalance the ill. 

It is, no doubt, the perfection of a rational 
being to have no belief but what is grounded on 
intuitive evidence, or on juft reafoning : But 
man, I apprehend, is not fuch a being ; nor is 
it the intention of Nature that he mould be fuch 
a being, in every period of his exiftence. We 
come into the world without the exercife of rea- 
fon ; we are merely animal before we are ra- 
tional creatures ; and it is neceffary for our pre- 
fervation, that we mould believe many things 
before we can reafon. How then is our belief 
to be regulated before we have reafon to regu- 
late it ? has Nature left it to be regulated by 
chance ? By no means. It is regulated by cer- 
tain principles, which are parts of our conftitu- 
tion ; whether they ought to be called animal 
principles, or inftinctive principles, or what 
name we give to them, is of fmall moment ; but 
they are certainly different from the faculty of 
D d 2 reafon : 

420 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 21. 

reafon : They do the office of reafon while it is 
in its infancy, and mufl, as it were, be carried 
in a nurfe's arms, and they are leading firings 
to it in its gradual progrefs. 

From what has been faid, I think it appears, 
that our original powers of perceiving objects 
by our fenfes receive great improvement by ufe 
and habit \ and without this improvement, would 
be altogether infufficient for the purpofes of life. 
The daily occurrences of life not only add to our 
{lock of knowledge, but give additional percep- 
tive powers to our fenfes ; and time gives us the 
ufe of our eyes and ears, as well as of our hands 
and legs. 

This is the greatefl and moll important im- 
provement of our external fenfes. It is to be 
found in all men come to years of underftanding, 
but is varions in different perfons according to 
their different occupations, and the different cir- 
cumflances in which they are placed. Every 
artift acquires an eye as well as a hand in his own 
profeflion : His eye becomes fkilled in perceiving, 
no lefs than his hand in executing, what belongs 
to his employment. 

Behdes this improvement of our fenfes, which 
Nature produces without our intention, there 
are various ways in which they may be impro- 
ved, or their defedls remedied by art. K%,firjl, 
by a due care of the organs of fenfe, that they 



be in a found and natural ftate. This belongs 
to the d. partment of the Medical Faculty. 

Secondly, By accurate attention to the objects 
of fenfe. The effects of fuch attention in im- 
proving our fenfes appear in every art. The 
artift, by giving more attention to certain ob- 
jects than others do, by that means perceives 
many things in thofe objects which others do 
not. Thofe who happen to be deprived of one 
fenfe, frequently fupply that defect in a great 
degree, by giving more accurate attention to the 
objects of the fenfes they have. The blind have 
often been known to acquire uncommon accute- 
nefs in diftinguifhing things by feeling and hear- 
ing ; and the deaf are uncommonly quick in 
reading mens thoughts in their countenance. 

A third way in which our fenfes admit of im- 
provement, is, by additional organs or inftru- 
ments contrived by art. By the invention of 
optical glaifes, and the gradual improvement of 
them, the natural power of virion is wonderful- 
ly improved, and a vaft addition made to the 
flock of knowledge which we acquire by the 
eye. By fpeaking trumpets, and ear trumpets* 
fome improvement has been made in the fenfe 
of hearing. Whether by fimilar inventions the 
other fenfes may be improved, feems uncertain. 

A fourth method by which the information 

got by our fenfes may be improved, is, by dif- 

covering the connection which Nature hath efta- 

D d 3 blifhed 

422 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 21. 

bliftied between the fenfible qualities of objedts 
and their more latent qualities. 

By the fenfible qualities of bodies, I under- 
Hand thofe that are perceived immediately by 
the fenfes, fuch as their colour, figure, feeling, 
found, tafte, fmell. The various modifications, 
and various combinations of thefe, are innumer- 
able ; fo that there are hardly two individual bo- 
dies in Nature that may not be diftinguifhed by 
their fenfible qualities. - 

The latent qualities are fuch as are not imme- 
diately difcovered by our fenfes ; but difcovered,, 
fometimes by accident, fometimes by experiment 
or obfervation. The moft important part of our 
knowledge of bodies, is the knowledge of the 
latent qualities of the feveral fpecies, by which 
they are adapted to certain purpofes, either for 
food, or medicine, or agriculture, or for the ma- 
terials or utenfils of fome art or manufacture. 

I am taught, that certain fpecies of bodies 
have certain latent qualities ; but how fhall I 
know that this individual is of fuch a fpecies ? 
This mult be known by the fenfible qualities 
which charadterife the fpecies. I muft know 
that this is bread, and that wine, before I eat 
the one or drink the other. I muft know that 
this is rhubarb, and that opium, before I ufe the 
one or the other for medicine. 

It is one branch of human knowledge to know 
the names of the various fpecies of natural and 



artificial bodies, and to know the fenfible quali- 
ties by which they are afcertained to be of fuch 
a fpecies, and by which they are diftinguifhed 
from one another. It is another branch of know- 
ledge to know the latent qualities of the feveral 
fpecies, and the ufes to which they are fubfer- 

The man who pofiefles both thefe branches, is 
informed by his fenfes of innumerable things of 
real moment, which are hid from thofe who pof- 
fefs only one, or neither. This is an improve- 
ment in the information got by our fenfes, which 
mu ft keep pace with the improvements made in 
natural hiftory, in natural philolbphy, and in 
the arts. 

It would be an improvement ftill higher, if 
we were able to difcover any connection between 
the fenfible qualities of bodies and their latent 
qualities, without knowing the fpecies, or what 
may have been difcovered with regard to it. 

Some Philofophers of the firft rate have made 
attempts towards this noble improvement, not 
without promilmg hopes of fuccefs. Thus the 
celebrated Linnjeus has attempted to point out 
certain fenfible qualities by which a plant may 
very probably be concluded to be poifonous. 
without knowing its name or fpecies. He has 
given feveral other' inftances, wherein certain 
medical and oeconomical virtues of plants- are in- 
dicated by their external appearances. Sir isaac 
D d 4 Newton 

4M ESSAY II, [CHAF. 22. 

Newton hath attempted to mow, that from the 
colours of bodies we may form a probable con- 
jecture of the fize of ^heir conftituent parts, by 
which the rays of light are reflected. 

No man can pretend to fet limits to the dif- 
coveries that may be made by human genius 
and induftry, of fuch connections between the 
latent and the fenfible qualities of bodies. A 
wide field here opens to our view, whofe boun- 
daries no man can afcertain, of improvements 
that may hereafter be made in the information 
conveyed to us by our fenfes. 


Of the Fallacy of the Senfes. 

COmplaints of the fallacy of the fenfes 
have been very common in ancient and 
in modern times, efpecially among the Philofo- 
phers : And if we mould take for granted all 
that they have faid on this fubject, the natural 
conclufion from it might feem to be, that the 
fenfes are given to us by fome malignant Daemon 
on purpofe to delude us, rather than that they 
are formed by the wife and beneficent Author of 
Nature, to give us true information of things ne- 
ceffary to our preservation and happinefs. 



The whole fed: of Atomifts among the an- 
cients, led by Democritus, and afterwards by 
Epicurus maintained, that ail the qualities of 
bodies which the moderns call fecondary qualities, 
to wit, fmell, tafte, found, colour, heat and cold, 
are mere illusions of fenfe, and have no real ex- 
Iftence. Plato maintained that we can attain 
no real knowledge of material things ; and that 
eternal and immutable ideas are the only objects 
of real knowledge. The Academics and Scep- 
tics anxiouily fought for arguments to prove the 
fallacioufnefs of our fenfes, in order to fupport 
their favourite doctrine, that even in things that 
feem moit evident, we ought to with-hold af- 

Among the Peripatetics we find frequent com- 
plaints that the fenfes often deceive us, and that 
their teftimony is to be fufpected, when it is not 
confirmed by reafon, by which the errors of 
fenfe may be corrected. This complaint they 
fupported by many common-place inftances ; 
fuch as, the crooked appearance of an oar in wa- 
ter ; objects being magnified, and their diftance 
miftaken in a fog ; the fun and moon appear- 
ing about a foot or two in diameter, while 
they are really thoufands of miles ; a fquare 
tower being taken at a diftance to be round. 
Thefe, and many fimilar appearances, they 
thought to be fufficiently accounted for from the 
fallacy of the fenfes : And thus the fallacy of the 


426 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 22, 

fenfes was ufed as a decent cover to conceal their 
ignorance of the real caufes of fuch phenomena, 
and ferved the fame purpofe as their occult qua- 
lities and fubitantial forms. 

Des Cartes and his followers joined in the 
fame complaint. Antony le Grand, a Philo- 
fopher of that feci, in the firft chapter of his Lo- 
gic, expreffes the fentiments of the feci as fol- 
lows : " Since all our fenfes are fallacious, and 
" we are frequently deceived by them, common 
" reafon advifes, that we Ihould not put too 
" much trufl in them, nay, that we mould fu- 
" fpecl falfehood in every thing they reprefent ; 
" for it is imprudence and temerity to trufl: to 
" thofe who have but once deceived us ; and if 
" they err at any time, they may be believed al- 
" ways to err. They are given by Nature for 
" this purpofe only, to warn us of what is ufe- 
" ful and what is hurtful to us. The order of 
" Nature is perverted when we put them to any 
" other ufe, and apply them for the knowledge 
" of truth." 

When we coniider, that the active part of 
mankind, in all ages from the beginning of the 
world, have refted their moil important concerns 
upon the teftimony of fenfe, it will be very dif- 
ficult to reconcile their conduct with the fpecu- 
lative opinion fo generally entertained of the 
fallacioufneis of the fenfes. And it feems to be 
a very unfavourable account of the workman- 



fhip of the Supreme Being, to think that he has 
given us one faculty to deceive us, to wit, our 
fenfes, and another faculty, to wit, our reafon, to 
detect the fallacy. 

It defer ves, therefore, to be confidered, whether 
the fallacioufnefs of our fenfes be not a common 
error, which men have been led into, from a de- 
lire to conceal their ignorance, or to apologife 
for their miflakes. 

There are two powers which we owe to our 
external fenfes, fenfation, and the perception of 
external objects. 

It is impoffible that there can be any fallacy 
in fenfation : For we are conicious of all our 
fenfations, and they can neither be any other in 
their nature, nor greater or lefs in their degree 
than we feel them. It is impoffible that a man 
fhould be in pain, when he does not feel pain ; 
and when he feels pain, it is impoffible that his 
pain mould not be real, and in its degree what 
it is felt to be ; and the fame thing may be faid 
of every fenfation whatfoever. An agreeable 
or an uneafy fenfation may be forgot when it is 
part, but when it is prefent, it can be nothing 
but what we feel. 

If, therefore, there be any fallacy in our fen- 
fes, it muft be in the perception of external ob- 
jects, which we (hall next conhder. 

And here I grant that we can conceive powers 
of perceiving external objects more perfect than. 


428 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 22, 

ours, which, poffibly, beings of a higher order 
may enjoy. We can perceive external objects 
only by means of bodily organs ; and thefe are 
liable to various diforders, which fometimes af- 
fect our powers of perception. The nerves and 
brain, which are interior organs of perception, are 
likewife liable to diforders, as every part of the 
human frame is. 

The imagination, the memory, the judging 
and reafoning powers, are all liable to be hurt, 
or even deftroyed, by diforders of the body, as 
well as our powers of perception ; but we do not 
on this account call them fallacious. 

Our fenfes, our memory, and our reafon, are 
all limited and imperfect : This is the lot of hu- 
manity : But they are fuch as the Author of our 
being faw to be beft fitted for us in our prefent 
ftate. Superior natures may have intellectual 
powers which we have not, or fuch as we have, 
in a more perfect degree, and lefs liable to acci- 
dental diforders : But we have no reafon to think 
that God has given fallacious powers to any of 
his creatures : This would be to think difho- 
nourably of our Maker, and would lay a foun- 
dation for univerfal fcepticifm. 

The appearances commonly imputed to the 
fallacy of the fenfes are many, and of different 
kinds ; but I think they many be reduced to the 
four following claffes. 



Firjl, Many things called deceptions of the 
fenfes are only conclulions rafhly drawn from the 
teftimony of the fenfes. In thefe cafes the tef- 
timony of the fenfes is true, but we rafhly draw 
a concluiion from it, which does not neceflarily 
follow. We are difpofed to impute our errors 
rather to falfe information than to inconclulive 
reafoning, and to blame our fenfes for the wrong 
conclulions we draw from their teftimony. 

Thus, when a man has taken a counterfeit 
guinea for a true one, he fays his fenfes decei- 
ved him ; but he lays the blame where it ought 
not to be laid : For we may afk him, Did your 
fenfes give a falfe teftimony of the colour, or of 
the figure, or of the impreffion ? No. But this 
is all that they teftified, and this they teitified 
truly : From thefe premifes you concluded that 
it was a true guinea, but this concluiion does 
not follow ; you erred therefore, not by relying 
upon the teftimony of fenfe, but by judging 
rafhly from its teftimony : Not only are your 
fenfes innocent of this error, but it is only by 
their information that it can be difcovered. If 
you confult them properly, they will inform you 
that what you took for a guinea is bafe metal, or 
is deficient in weight, and this can only be 
known by the teftimony of fenfe. 

I remember to have met with a man who 
thought the argument ufed by Proteftants againft 
the Popilh doctrine oftranfubftantiation,fromthe 


43© ESSAY II. [CHAP. 22. 

teftimony of our fenfes, inconclufive ; becaufe, 
faid he, inftances may be given where feveral of 
our fenfes may deceive us : How do we know 
then that there may not be cafes wherein they 
all deceive us, and no fenfe is left to detect the 
fallacy ? I begged of him to know an inftance 
wherein feveral of our fenfes deceive us. I 
take, faid he, a piece of foft turf, I cut it into 
the fhape of an apple ; with the effence of ap- 
ples, I give it the fmell of an apple ; and with 
paint, I can give it the fkin and colour of an ap- 
ple. Here then is a body, which, if you jrdge 
by your eye, by your touch, or by your fmell, 
is an apple. 

To this I would anfwer, that no one of our 
fenfes deceives us in this cafe. My fight and 
touch teftify that it has the ftiape and colour of 
an apple : This is true. The fenfe of fmelling 
teftifles that it has the fmell of an apple : This is 
likewife true, and is no deception. Where then 
lies the deception ? It is evident it lies in this, 
that becaufe this body has fome qualities belong- 
ing to an apple, I conclude that it is an apple. 
This is a fallacy, not of the fenfes, but of incon- 
clufive reafoning. 

Many falfe judgments that are accounted de- 
ceptions of fenfe, arife from our mi Making rela- 
tive motion for real or abfolute motion. Thefe 
can be no deceptions of fenfe, becaufe by our 
fenfes we perceive only the relative motions of 

bodies ; 


bodies ; and it is by reafoning that we infer the 
real from the relative which we perceive. A 
little reflection may fatisfy us of this. 

It was before obferved, that we perceive ex- 
tenfion to be one fenfible quality of bodies, and 
thence are neceffarily led to conceive fpace, 
though fpace ^be of itfelf no object of fenfe. 
When a body h removed out of its place, the 
fpace which it filled remains empty till it is fill- 
ed by fome other body, and would remain if it 
ihould never be filled. Before any body exifted, 
the fpace which bodies now occupy was empty 
fpace, capable of receiving bodies ; for no body 
can exift where there is no fpace to contain it. 
There is fpace therefore wherever bodies exift, 
or can exift. 

Hence it is evident that fpace can have no li- 
mits. It is no lefs evident that it is immoveable. 
Bodies placed in it are moveable, but the place 
where they were cannot be moved ; and we can 
as eafily conceive a thing to be moved from it- 
felf, as one part of fpace brought nearer to, or 
removed farther from another. 

This fpace therefore which is unlimited and 
immoveable, is called by Philofophers abfolute 
fpace. Abfolute or real motion is a change of 
place in abfolute fpace. 

Our fenfes do not teftify the abfolute motion 
or abfolute reft of any body. When one body 
removes from another, this may be difcerned by 


43- £ S S A Y II. CHAP. 22, 

the fenfes ; but whether any body keeps the 
fame part of abfolute fpace, we do not perceive 
by our fenfes : When one body feems to remove 
from another, we can infer with certainty that 
there is abfolute motion, but whether in the one 
or the other, or partly in both, is not difcerned 
by fenfe. * 

Of all the prejudices which philofophy con- 
tradicts, I believe there is none fo general as 
that the earth keeps its place unmoved. This 
opinion feems to be univerfal, till it is corrected 
by inftruction, or by philofophical fpeculation. 
Thofe who have any tincture of education are 
not now in danger of being held by it, but they 
find at firft a reluctance to believe that there 
are antipodes ; that the earth is fpherical, and 
turns round its axis every day, and round the 
fun every year : They can recollect the time 
when reafon ftruggled with prejudice upon thefe 
points, and prevailed at length, but not without 
fome effort. 

The caufe of a prejudice fo very general is not 
unworthy of inveftigation. But that is not our 
prefent bufinefs. It is fufticient to obferve, that 
it cannot juftly be called a fallacy of fenfe ; be- 
caufe our fenfes teftify only the change of litua- 
tion of one body in relation to other bodies, and 
not its change of Situation in abfolute fpace. It 
is only the relative motion of bodies that we per- 
ceive, and that, we perceive truly. It is the 



province of reafon and philofophy, from the re- 
lative motions which we perceive, to collecl: the 
real and abfolute motions which produce them. 

All motion rauft be eftimated from fome point 
or place which is fuppofed to be at reft. We 
perceive not the points of abfolute fpace, from 
which real and abfolute motion mult be rec- 
koned : And there are obvious reafons that 
lead mankind in the ftate of ignorance, to make 
the earth the fixed place from which they 
may eftimate the various motions they perceive. 
The cuftom of doing this from infancy, and of 
uiing conftantly a language which fuppofes the" 
earth to be at re It, may perhaps be the caufe of 
the general prejudice in favour of this opinion. 

Thus it appears, that if we diftinguifh accu- 
rately between what our fenfes really and natu- 
rally teftify, and the conclulions which we draw 
from their teftimony by reafoning, we mail find 
many of the errors, called fallacies of the fenfes, 
to be no fallacy of the fenfes, but rafh judgments, 
which are not to be imputed to our fenfes. 

Secondly, Another clafs of errors imputed to 
the fallacy of the fenfes, are thofe which we are 
liable to in our acquired perceptions. Acqui- 
red perception is not properly the teftimony of 
thofe fenfes which God hath given us, but a 
conclulion drawn from what the fenfes teftify, 
In our pail experience, we have found certain 
things conjoined with what our fenfes teftify. 

Vol. L E e We 

434 ESSAY II. fCHAF. 11. 

We are led by our conftitution to expect this* 
conjunction in time to come ; and when we have 
often found it in our experience to happen, we 
acquire a firm belief, that the things which we 
have found thus conjoined are connected in na- 
ture, and that one is a fign of the other. The 
appearance of the fign immediately produces the 
belief of its ufual attendant, and we think we 
perceive the one as well as the other. 

That fuch conclufions are formed even in in- 
fancy, no man can doubt ; nor is it lefs certain 
that they are confounded with the natural and 
immediate perceptions of fenfe, and in all lan- 
guages are called by the fame name. We are 
therefore authorifed by language to call them 
perception, and maft often do fo, or fpeak unin- 
telligibly. But philofophy teaches us in this, as 
in many other inftances, to diftinguifh things 
which the vulgar confound. I have therefore 
given the name of acquired perception to fuch 
conclufions, to diftinguifh them from what is 
naturally, originally, and immediately teftified 
by our fenfes. Whether this acquired percep- 
tion is to be refolved into fome procefs of reafon- 
ing, of which we have loft the remembrance, as 
fome Philofophers think, or whether it refults 
from fome part of our conftitution diftinct from 
reafon, as I rather believe, does not concern the 
prefent fubject. If the firft of theie opinions be 
true, the errors of acquired perception will fall 




under the firft clafs before mentioned. If not, it 
makes a diftinct clafs by itfelf. But whether the 
one or the other be true, it muit be obferved, 
that the errors of acquired perception are not 
properly fallacies of our fenfes. 

Thus when a globe is fet before me, I perceive 
by my eyes that it has three dimenfions and a 
fpherical figure. To fay that this is not percep- 
tion, would be to reject the authority of euftom 
in the ufe of words, which no wife man will do i 
But that it is not the teflimony of my fenfe of 
feeing, every Philofopher knows. I fee only ;a 
circular form, having the light and colour diftri- 
buted in a certain way over it. But being ac- 
cuftomed to obferve this diltribution of light and 
colour only in a fpherical body, I immediately, 
from what I fee, believe the object to be fpheri- 
cal, and fay that I fee or perceive it to be fphe- 
rical. When a painter, by an exact imitation 
of that diftribution of light and colour, which I 
have been accuftomed to fee only in a real 
fphere, deceives me, fo as to make me take that 
to be a real fphere, which is only a painted one, 
the teflimony of my eye is true ; the colour and 
vifible figure of the object is truly what I fee it 
to be : The error lies in the conclufion drawn 
from what I fee, to wit, that the object has three 
dimenfions and a fpherical figure. The conclu- 
fion is falfe in this cafe ; but whatever be the 
E e 2 origin- 

43^ ESSAY II. [CHAP. 22. 

origin of this conclufion, it is not properly the 
testimony of fenfe. 

To this clafs we muft refer the judgments we 
are apt to form of the diftance and magnitude 
of the heavenly bodies, and of terreftrial objects 
feen on high. The miftakes we make of the 
magnitude and diftance of objects feen through 
optical glaffes, or through an atmofphere uncom- 
monly clear, or uncommonly foggy, belong like- 
wife to this clafs. 

The errors we are led into in acquired percep- 
tion are very rarely hurtful to us in the conduct 
of life ; they are gradually corrected by a more 
enlarged experience, and a more perfect know- 
ledge of the laws of Nature : And the general 
laws of our conftitution, by which we are fome- 
times led into them, are of the greateft utility. 

We come into the world ignorant of every 
thing, and by our ignorance expofed to masiy 
dangers and to many miftakes. The regular 
train of caufes and effects, which Divine Wif- 
dom has eftablilhed, and which directs every ftep 
of our conduct in advanced life, is unknown, un- 
til it is gradually difcovered by experience. 

We muft learn much from experience before 
we can reafon, and therefore muft be liable to 
many errors. Indeed, I apprehend, that, in the 
firft part of life, reafon would do us much more 
hurt than good. Were we fenfible of our con- 
dition in that period, and capable of reflecting 



upon it, we mould be like a man in the dark, 
furrounded with dangers, where every ftep he 
takes may be into a pit. Reafon would direct 
him to lit down, and wait till he could fee about 

In like manner, if we fuppofe an infant en- 
dowed with reafon, it would direft him to do 
nothing, till he knew what could be done with 
fafety. This he can only know by experiment, 
and experiments are dangerous. Reafon directs, 
that experiments that are full of danger ihould 
not be made without a very urgent caufe. It 
would therefore make the infant unhappy, and 
hinder his improvement by experience. 

Nature has followed another plan. The child, 
unapprehenfive of danger, is led by inftindt to 
exert all his active powers, to try every thing 
without the cautious admonitions of reafon, and 
to believe every thing that is told him. Some- 
times he fuffers by his raihnefs what reafon would 
have prevented : But his fuffering proves a fa- 
lutary difcipline, and makes him for the future 
avoid the caufe of it. Sometimes he is impofed 
upon by his credulity ; but it is of infinite be- 
nefit to him upon the whole. His activity and 
credulity are more ufeful qualities, and better 
inftructors than reafon would be ; they teach 
him more in a day than reafon would do in a 
year ; they furnifh a ftock of materials for reafon 
to work upon ; they make him eafy and happy 

E e 3 in 

43? ESSAY II. [CHAP. 22. 

in a period of his exiflence, when reafon could 
only ferve to fuggeft a thoufand tormenting 
anxieties and fears : And he acts agreeably to 
the conftitution and intention of Nature, even 
when he does and believes what reafon would 
notjuflify. So that the wifdom and goodnefs 
of the Author of Nature is no lefs confpicuous 
in with-holdingtheexercife of our reafon in this 
period, than in bellowing it when we are ripe 
for it. 

A third clafs of errors, afcribed to the fallacy 
of the fenfes, proceds from ignorance of the laws 
of Nature. 

The laws of Nature (I mean not moral but 
phyfical laws) are learned, either from our 
own experience, or the experience of others, 
who have had occalion to obferve the courfe of 

Ignorance of thofe laws, or inattention to 
them, is apt to occafion falfe judgments "with 
regard to the objects of fenfe, eipecially thofe 
of hearing and of light ; which falfe judgments 
are often, withoyt good reafon, called fallacies 
qf fenfe. 

Sounds affect the ear differently, according as 
the founding body is before or behind us, on the 
right hand or on the left, near or at a great di- 
ftance. We learn, by the manner in which the 
found affects the car, on what hand we are to 
look for the founding body ; and in moft cafes 



we judge right. But we are fometimes deceived 
by echos, or by whifpering galleries, or fpeaking 
trumpets, which return the found, or alter its 
direction, or convey it to a diftance without di- 

The deception is ftill greater, becaufe more 
uncommon, which is faid to be produced by Ga- 
;ftriloquifts, that is, perfons who have acquired 
the art of modifying their voice, fo that it mail 
afrecl the ear of the hearers, as if it came from 
another perfon, or from the clouds, or from un- 
der the earth. 

I never had the fortune to be acquainted with 
any of thefe artifls, and therefore cannot fay to 
what degree of perfection the art may have been 

I apprehend it to be only fuch an imperfect, 
imitation as may deceive thofe who are inatten- 
tive, or under a panic. For if it could be car- 
ried to perfection, a Gaftriloquift would be as 
dangerous a man in fociety as was the fhepherd 
Giges, who, by turning a ring upon his finger, 
could make himfelf inviuble, and by that means, 
from being the King's ihepherd, became King 
of Lydia. 

If the Gaftriloquifts have all been too good 
men to uie their talents to the detriment of 
others, it might at leaft be expected that fome of 
them mould apply it to their own advantage. 
|f it could be brought to any considerable degree 
E e 4 of 

440 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 22. 

of perfection, it feems to be as proper an engine 
for drawing money by the exhibition of it, as 
legerdemain or rope-dancing. But I have never 
heard of any exhibition of this kind, and there- 
fore am apt to think that it is too coarfe an imi- 
tation to bear exhibition even to the vulgar. 

Some are faid to have the art of imitating the 
voice of another fo exactly, that in the dark 
they might be taken for the perfon whofe voice 
they imitate. I am apt to think, that this art 
alfo, in the relations made of it, is magnified 
beyond the truth, as wonderful relations are apt 
to be, and that an attentive ear would be able to 
diftinguilh the copy from the original.' 

It is indeed a wonderful inflance of the ac- 
curacy as well as of the truth of our fenfes, in 
things that are of real ufe in life, that we are 
able to diftinguifh %11 our acquaintance by their 
countenance, by their voice, and by their hand- 
writing, when at the fame time we are often un- 
able to fay by what minute difference the di- 
flinction is made ; and that we are fo very rare- 
ly deceived in matters of this kind, when we 
give proper attention to the informations of 

However, if any cafe mould happen, in which 
founds produced by different caufes are not di- 
ftinguifhable by, the ear, this may prove that 
our fenfes are imperfect, but not that they are 
fallacious. The ear may not be able to draw 



the juft conclulion, but it is only our ignorance 
of the laws of found that leads us to a wrong 

Deceptions of fight, arifing from ignorance of 
the laws of Nature, are more numerous, and 
more remarkable than thofe of hearing. 

The rays of light, which are the means of 
feeing, pafs in right lines from the object to the 
eye, when they meet with no obftruction ; and 
we are by Nature led to conceive the vifible ob- 
ject to be in the direction of the rays that come 
to the eye. But the rays may be reflected, re- 
fracted, or inflected in their paffage from the 
object to the eye, according to certain fixed laws 
of Nature, by which means their direction may 
be changed, and confequently the apparent 
place, figure, or magnitude of the object. 

Thus a child feeing himfelf in a mirror, thinks 
he fees another child behind the mirror, that 
imitates all his motions. But even a child foon 
gets the better of this deception, and knows that 
he fees himfelf only. 

All the deceptions made by telefcopes, micro- 
fcopes, camera obfcuras, magic lanthorns, are of 
the fame kind, though not fo familiar to the vul- 
gar. The ignorant may be deceived by them ; 
but to thofe who are acquainted with the prin- 
ciples of optics, they give juft and true infor- 
mation, and the laws of Nature by which 
they are produced are of infinite benefit to man- 


44-2 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 22, 

There remains another clafs of errors, com- 
monly called deceptions of fenfe, and the only- 
one, as I apprehend, to which that name can be 
given with propriety : I mean fuch as proceed 
from fome diforder or preternatural ftate, either 
of the external organ, or of the nerves and brain, 
which are internal organs of perception. 

In a delirium, or in madnefs, perception, me- 
mory, imagination, and our reafoning powers, 
are ftrangely difordered and confounded. There 
are like wife diforders which affect fome of our 
fenfes, while others are found. Thus, a man 
may feel pain in his toes after the leg is cut off. 
He may feel a little ball double, by croffing his 
fingers. He may fee an object double, by not 
directing both eyes properly to it. By prefTing 
the ball of his eye, he may fee colours that are not 
real. Ey the jaundice in his eyes, he may mi- 
itake colours. Thefe are more properly de- 
ceptions of fenfe than any of the claffes before 

We rauft acknowledge it to be the lot of hu- 
man nature, that all the human faculties are 
liable, by accidental caufes, to be hurt and un- 
fitted for their natural functions, either wholly 
or in part : But as this imperfection is common 
to them all, it gives no juft ground for accounting 
any one of them fallacious more than another. 

Upon the whole, it feems to have been a 
common error of Philofophers to account the 



fenfes fallacious. And to this error they have 
added another, that one ufe of reafcn is to de- 
tect the fallacies of fenfe. 

It appears, I think, from what has been laid, 
that there is no more reafon to account our fen- 
fes fallacious, than our reafon, our memory, or 
any other faculty of judging which Nature hath 
given us. They are all limited and imperfect ; 
but wifely fuited to the prefent condition of 
man. We are liable to error and- wrong judg- 
ment in the ufe of them all ; but as little in the 
informations of fenfe as in the deductions of 
reafoning. And the errors we fall into with re- 
gard to objects of fenfe are not corrected by 
reafon, but by more accurate attention to the 
informations we may receive by our fenfes 

Perhaps the pride of Philofophers may have 
given occaiion to this error. Reafon is the fa- 
culty wherein they aifume a fuperiority to the 
unlearned. The informations of fenfe are com- 
mon to the Philofopher and to the moil illiterate : 
They put all men upon a level ; and therefore 
are apt to be undervalued. We muft, however, 
be beholden to the informations of fenfe for the 
greater! and moil iaterefting part of our know- 
ledge. The wifdom of Nature has made the 
mofVufeful things mofl common, and they ought 
not to be defpifed on that account. Nature 
like wife forces our belief in thofe informations, 


444 ESSAY II. [CHAP. 22. 

and all the attempts of philofophy to weaken it 
are fruitlefs and vain. 

1 add only one obfervation to what has been faid 
upon this fubject. It is, that there feems to be 
a contradiction between what Philofophers teach 
concerning ideas, and their doctrine of the fal- 
lacioufnefs of the fenfes. We are taught that 
the office of the fenies is only to give us the 
ideas of external objects. If this be fo, there 
can be no fallacy in the fenfes. Ideas can nei- 
ther be true nor falfe. If the fenfes teftify no- 
thing, they cannot give falfe teftimony. If they 
are not judging faculties, no judgment can be 
imputed to them, whether falfe or true. There 
is, therefore, a contradiction between the com- 
mon doctrine concerning ideas and that of the 
fallacioufhefs of the fenfes. Both may be falfe, 
as 1 believe they are, but both cannot be true. 





Things obvious and certain with regard to Memory. 

IN the gradual progrefs of man, ftom infancy 
to maturity, there is a certain order in which 
his faculties are unfolded, and this feems to be 
the beft order we can follow in treating of them. 
The external fenfes appear firft ; memory foon 
follows, which we are now to confider. 

It is by memory that we have an immediate 
knowledge of things pad : The fenfes give us 
information of things only as they exift in the 
prefent moment ; and this information, if it 
were not preferved by memory, would vanifh 
inftantly, and leave us as ignorant as if it had 
never been. 


44$ ESSAY in. [chap, h 

Memory muft have an object. Every man 
"Who remembers mult remember fomething, and 
that which he remembers is called the object of 
his remembrance. In this, memory agrees with 
perception, but differs from fenfation, which has- 
no object but the feeling itfelf. 

Every man can diftinguifh the thing remem- 
bered from the remembrance of it. We may re- 
member any thing which we have feen, or heard, 
or known, or done, or fuffered ; but the remem- 
brance of it is a particular act of the mind which 
no\t exifts, and of which we are confcious. To 
confound thefe two is an abfurdity, which a 
thinking man could not be led into, but by fome 
falfe hypothecs which hinders him from reflec- 
ting upon the thing which he would explain 
by it. 

In memory we do not find fuch a train of ope- 
rations connected by our conftitution as in per- 
ception. When we perceive an objecl: by our 
fenfes, there is, firft, fome imprefiion made by 
the objecl: upon the organ of fenfe, either imme- 
diately or by means of fome medium. By this 
an imprefiion is made upon the nerves and brain, 
in confequence of which we feel fome fenfation ; 
and that fenfation is attended by that conception 
and belief of the external object which we call 
perception. Thefe operations are fo connected 
in our conftitution, that it is difficult to disjoin 
them in our conceptions, and to attend to each. 



without" confounding it with the others. But in 
the operations of memory we are free from this 
embarraflment ; they are eafily diftinguifhed 
from all other ads of the mind, and the names 
which denote them are free from all ambiguity. 

The object of memory, or thing remembered, 
mufl be fomething that is pad ; as the object of 
perception and of confcioufnefs mud be fome- 
thing which is prefent : What now is, cannot be 
an object of memory ; neither can that which is 
pad and gone be an object of perception or of 

Memory is always accompanied with the be-* 
lief of that which we remember, as perception is 
accompanied with the belief of that which we 
perceive, and confcioufnefs with the belief of 
that whereof we are confcious. Perhaps in in- 
fancy, or in a diforder of mind, things remem- 
bered may be confounded with thofe which are 
merely imagined ; but in mature years, and in a 
found date of mind, every man feels that he 
mud believe what he didinclly remembers, 
though he can give no other reafon of his belief, 
but that he remembers the thing didinclly ; 
whereas, when he merely imagines a thing ever 
fo didinclly, he has no belief of it upon that ac- 

This belief, which we have from didincl me- 
mory, we account reul knowledge, no lefs cer- 
tain than if it was grounded on demondration ; 


448 ESSAY III. [chap. I. 

no man in his wits calls it in queftion, or will 
hear any argument againfl it. The teftimony of 
witnelfes in caufes of life and death depends up- 
on it, and all the knowledge of mankind of paft 
events is built on this foundation. 

There are cafes in which a man's memory is 
lefs diftinct and determinate, and where he isr 
ready to allow that it may have failed him ; but 
this does not in the Jeaft weaken its credit, when 
it is perfectly diftincl:. 

Memory implies a conception and belief of pad 
duration ; for it is impoffible that a man mould 
remember a thing diftin&ly, without believing 
fome interval of duration, more or lefs, to have 
palled between the time it happened, and the 
prefent moment ; and I think it is impoffible to 
fhow how we could acquire a notion of duration 
if we had no memory. 

Things remembered mull be things formerly 
perceived or known. I remember the tranfit of 
Venus over the fun in the year 1769. I mult 
therefore have perceived it at the time it hap- 
pened, otherwife I could not now remember it. 
Our firft acquaintance with any object of thought 
cannot be by remembrance. Memory can only 
produce a continuance or renewal of a former 
acquaintance with the thing remembered. 

The remembrance of a paft event is neceffarily 
accompanied with the conviction of our own ex- 
iftence at the time the event happened. I can- 


not remember a thing that happened a year ago, 
without a conviction as ftrong as memory can 
give, that I, the lame identical perfon who now 
remember that event, did then exift. 

What I have hitherto faid concerning me= 
mory, I confider as principles which appear ob- 
vious and certain to every man who will take 
the pains to reflect, upon the operations of his 
own mind. They are facts of which every man 
muft judge by what he feels ; and they admit of 
no other proof but an appeal to every man's own 
reflection. I fhali therefore take them for grant- 
ed in what follows, and fhall firlt draw fome 
conclusions from them, and then examine the 
theories of Philofophers concerning memory, and 
concerning duration, and our peribnal identity^ 
of which we acquire the knowledge by memory* 


Memory an original Faculty. 

'IRST, I think it appears that memory is an 
original faculty given us by the Author of 
our being, of which we can give no account, but 
that we are fo made. 

The knowledge which I have of things pad 
by my memory, feems to me as unaccountable as 
an immediate knowledge would be of things to 
Vol. I F f come ; 

45© ESSAY III. [CHAP. 1 e 

come ; and I can give no reafon why I mould 
have the one and not the other, but that fuch is- 
the will of my Maker. I find in my mind a di- 
itindt conception and a firm belief of a feries of 
paft events ; but how this is produced I know 
not. I call it memory, but this is only giving a 
name to it ; it is not an account of its eaufe. I 
believe molt firmly what I diitinctly remember ; 
but I can give no reafon of this belief. It is the 
infpiration of the Almighty that gives me this 

When I believe the truth of a mathematical 
axiom, or of a mathematical propofition, I fee 
that it muft be fo : Every man who has the fame 
conception of it fees the fame. There is a ne- 
celfary and an evident connection between the 
fubject and the predicate of the propofition ; 
and I have all the evidence to fupport my belief 
which I can poffibly conceive. 

When I believe that I wafiied my hands and 
face this morning, there appears no neceflity in 
the truth of this propofition. It might be, or it 
might not be. A man may diftinctly conceive 
it without believing it at all. How then do I 
eome to believe it ? I remember it diltinclly. 
This is all I can fay. This remembrance is an 
act of my mind. Is it impoflible that this act 
mould be, if the event had not happened ? I con- 
.iefs I do not fee any necefTary connection be- 
tween the one and the other. If any man can 

ih ow 


mow fuch a necefTary connection, then I think 
that belief which we have of what we remem- 
ber will be fairly accounted for ; but if this can- 
not be done, that belief is unaccountable, and 
we can fay no more but that it is the refult of 
our conftitution. 

Perhaps it may be faid, that the experience 
we have had of the fidelity of memory is a good 
reafon for relying upon its teftimony. I deny 
not that this may be a reafon to thofe who have 
had this experience, and who reflecT: upon it. 
But I believe there are few who ever thought of 
this reafon, or who found any need of it. It 
muft be fome very rare occafion that leads a 
man to have recourfe to it ; and in thofe who 
have done fo, the teftimony of memory was be- 
lieved before the experience of its fidelity, and 
that belief could not be caufed by the experience 
which came after it. 

We know fome abftrac~t truths, by comparing 
the terms of the propofition which exprefTes 
them, and perceiving fome necefTary relation or 
agreement between them* It is thus I know 
that two and three make five ; that the diameters 
of a circle are all equal. Mr Locke having dis- 
covered this fource of knowledge, too raflily 
concluded that all human knowledge might be 
derived from it ; and in this he has been follow- 
ed very generally ; by Mr Hume in particular. 
Ffa . But 

45^ ESSAY lit, [eiJAP. 2r 

But I apprehend, that our knowledge of the 
exiftence of things contingent can never be traced 
to this fource. I know that fuch a thing exifts, 
or did exift. This knowledge cannot be derived 
from the perception of a neceffary agreement be- 
tween exiftence and the thing that exifts, be- 
caufe there is no fuch neceffary agreement ; and 
therefore no fuch agreement can be perceived 
either immediately, or by a chain of reafoning. 
The thing does not exift neceffarily, but by the 
will and power of him that made it ; and therer 
is no contradiction follows from fuppofing it not 
to exift. 

Whence I think it follows, that our know- 
ledge of the exiftence of our own thoughts, of 
the exiftence of all the material objects about us, 
and of all paft contingencies, muft be derived, 
not from a perception of neceffary relations or 
agreements, but from fome other fource. 

Our Maker has provided other means for gi- 
ving us the knowledge of thefe things ; means 
which perfectly anfwer their end, and produce 
the effect intended by them. But in what man- 
ner they do this, is, I fear, beyond our fkill to 
explain. We know our own thoughts, and the 
operations of our minds, by a power which we 
call confcioufnefs : But this is only giving a 
name to this part of our frame. It does not ex- 
plain its fabric, nor how it produces in us an ir- 
reiiftible conviction of its informations. We per- 


ceive material objects and their fenfible qualities 
by our fenfes ; but how they give us this infor- 
mation, and how they produce our belief in it, 
we know not. We know many paft events by 
memory ; but how it gives tins information, I 
believe, is inexplicable. 

It is well known what fubtile difputes were 
held through all the fcholaftic ages, and are ftill 
carried on about the preference of the Deity, 
Aristotle had taught, that there can be no cer- 
tain foreknowledge of things contingent ; and in 
this he has been very generally followed, upon 
no other grounds, as I apprehend, but that we 
cannot conceive how fuch things mould be fore- 
known, and therefore conclude it to be impof- 
fible. Hence has arifen an oppoiition and fup- 
pofed inconfiftency between Divine preference 
and human liberty. Some have given up the 
rirft in favour of the laft, and others have given 
up the laft in order to fupport the rlrft. 

It is remarkable, that thefe difputants have 
never apprehended that there is any difficulty in 
reconciling with liberty the knowledge of what 
is paft, but only of what is future. It is pre- 
fcience only, and not memory, that is fuppofed 
to be hoftile to liberty, and hardly reconcileable 
to it. 

Yet I believe the difficulty is perfectly equal 
in the one cafe and in the other. I admit, that 
we cannot account for prefcience of the actions 
F f 3 of 

454 ESSAY III. [chap. 2. 

of a free agent. But I maintain that we can as 
little account for memory of the pall actions of 
a free agent. If any man thinks he can prove 
that the actions of a free agent cannot be fore- 
known, he will find the fame arguments of equal 
force to prove that the paft actions of a free agent 
cannot be remembered. It is true, that what is 
paft did certainly exift. It is no lefs true, that 
what is future will certainly exift. I know no 
reafaning from the conftitution of the agent, 
or from his circumftances, that has not equal 
flrength, whether it be applied to his paft or to 
his future actions. The paft was, but now is 
not. The future will be, but now is not. The 
prefent is equally connected, or unconnected 
with both. 

The only reafon why men have apprehended 
fo great difparity in cafes fo perfectly like, I take 
to be this, That the faculty of memory in our- 
felves convinces us from fact, that it is not irn- 
poffible that an intelligent being, even a finite 
being, fhould have certain knowledge of paft ac- 
tions of free agents, without tracing them from 
any thing neceffarily connected with them. But 
having no prefcience in ourfelves correfponding 
to our memory of what is paft, we find great dif- 
ficulty in admitting it to be poffible even in the 
Supreme Being. 

A faculty which we poffefs in fome degree, 
we eanJy admit that the Supreme Being may 



poffefs in a more perfect degree ; but a faculty, 
which has nothing correfponding to it in our con- 
ftitution, we will hardly allow to .be., poffible. 
We are fo conftituted as to have an intuitive 
knowledge of many things pad ; but we have, 
no intuitive knowledge of the future. We might 
perhaps have been fo conftituted as to have an 
intuitive knowledge of the future, but not of the 
pad ; nor would this conftitution have been 
more unaccountable than the prefent, though it 
might be much more inconvenient. Had this 
been our conftitution, w 7 e ihould have found no 
difficulty in admitting that the Deity may know 
all things future, but very much in admitting 
his knowledge of things that are paft. 

Our original faculties are all unaccountable. 
Of theie memory is one. He only who made 
them, comprehends fully how they are made, 
and how they produce in us not only a concep- 
tion, but a firm belief and aflurance of things 
which it concerns us to know. 


Of Duration. 

FROM the principles laid down in the firft 
chapter of this Eflay, I think it appears, 
that our notions of duration, as well as our be- 

F f 4 lief 

456 essay iii. [chap. 3. 

lief of it, is got by the faculty of memory. It 
is efTential to every thing remembered that it be 
fomething which is pail; and we cannot con-r 
ceive a thing to be pall, without conceiving fonie 
duration, more or lefs, between it and the pre- 
fent. As foon therefore as we remember any 
thing, we mull have both a notion and a belief 
of duration. It is necefTarily fuggefted by every 
operation of our memory ; and to that faculty 
it ought to be afcribed. This is therefore a 
proper place to confider what is ^nown concern- 
ing it. 

Duration, extenfion, and number, are the mea- 
fures of all things fubjeel to menfuration. When 
we apply them to finite things which are mea- 
fured by them, they feem of all things to be the 
moll diilinc"tly conceived, and moil witLln the 
reach of human underftanding. 

Extenfion having three dimensions, has an 
endlefs variety of modifications, capable of being 
accurately defined ; and their various relations 
furnilh the human mind w 7 ith its mod ample field 
of demonllrative reafoning. Duration having 
only one dimenfion, has fewer modifications ; 
but thefe are clearly underftood ; and their rela- 
tions admit of meafure, proportion, and demon- 
llrative reafoning. 

Number is called difcrete quantity, becaufe it 
is compounded of units, which are all equal and 
fimilar, and it can only be divided into units. 



This is true, in fome fenfe, even of Fractions of 
unity, to which we now commonly give the 
name of number. For in every fractional num- 
ber the unit is fuppofed to be fubdivided into a 
certain number of equal parts, which are the 
Units of that denomination, and the fractions of 
that denomination are only divifible into units 
of the fame denomination. Duration and ex- 
tenfion are not difcrete, but continued quanti- 
ty. They coniifl of parts perfectly fimilar, but 
divifible without end. 

In order to aid our conception of the magni- 
tude and proportions of the various intervals of 
duration, we find it necelTary to give a name to 
fome known portion of it, fuch as an hour, a 
day, a year. Thefe we confider as units, and 
by the number of them contained in a larger in- 
terval, we form a diftinct conception of its mag- 
nitude. A fimilar expedient we find neceffary 
to give us a diftinct conception of the magni- 
tudes and proportions of things extended. Thus, 
number is found neceffary, as a common meafure 
of extenfion and duration. But this perhaps is 
owing to the weaknefs of our understanding. It 
has even been difcovered, by the fagacity of 
Mathematicians, that this expedient does not in 
all cafes anfwer its intention. For there are 
proportions of continued quanity, which cannot 
be perfectly expreiTed by numbers ; fuch as that 


45$ ESSAY III. [chap. 3„ 

between the diagonal and fide of a fquare, and 
many others. 

The parts of duration have to other parts of 
it the relations of prior and pofterior, and to the 
prefent they have the relations of paft and fu- 
ture. The notion of paft is immediately fug- 
gefted by memory, as has been before obferved. 
And when we have got the notions of prefent 
and paft, and of prior and pofterior, we can 
from thefe frame a notion of the future ; for the 
future is that which is pofterior to the prefent. 
Nearnefs and diftance are relations equally ap- 
plicable to time and to place. Diftance in time, 
and diftance in place, are things fo different in 
their nature, and fo like in their relation, that it 
is difficult to determine whether the name of 
diftance is applied to both in the fame or an ana- 
logical fenfe. 

The extenlion of bodies which we perceive 
by our fenfes, leads us necefTarily to the concep- 
tion and belief of a fpace which remains im^- 
moveable when the body is removed. And the 
duration of events which we remember leads us 
neceflarily to the conception and belief of a du- 
ration, which would have gone on uniformly, 
though the event had never happened. 

Without fpace there can be nothing that is 
extended. And without time there can be no- 
thing that hath duration. This I think unde- 
niable. And yet we find that extenlion and du- 


ration are not more clear and intelligible than 
fpace and time are dark and difficult objects of 

As there muft be fpace wherever any thing 
extended does or can exift, and time when 
there is or can be any thing that has duration, 
we can fet no bounds to either, even in our ima- 
gination. They defy all limitation. The one 
fwells in our conception to immenfity, the other 
to eternity. 

An eternity paft is an objecl: which we can- 
not comprehend ; but a beginning of time, un- 
lefs we take it in a figurative fenfe, is a contra- 
diction. By a common figure of fpecch, we 
give the name of time to thofe motions and re- 
volutions by which we meafure it, fuch as days 
and years. We can conceive a beginning of 
thefe fenfible meafures of time, and fay that 
there was a time when they were not, a time 
undiitinguifhed by any motion or change ; but 
to fay that there was a time before all time, is a 

All limited duration is comprehended in time, 
and all limited extenfion in fpace. Thefe, in 
their capacious womb, contain all finite exift- 
ences, but are contained by none. Created 
things have their particular place in fpace, and 
their particular place in time ; but time is every 
where, and fpace at all times. They embrace 
each the other, and have that myfterious union 


460 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 3. 

which the fchoolmen conceived between foul 
and body. The whole of each is in every part 
of the other. 

We are at a lofs to what category or clafs of 
things we ought to refer them. They are not 
beings, but rather the receptacles of every crea- 
ted being, without which it could not have had 
the poflibility of exiftence. Philofophers have 
endeavoured to reduce all the objects of human 
thought to thefe three dalles, of fubftances, 
modes, and relations. To which of them fhall 
we refer time, fpace and number, the mod com- 
mon objects of thought ? 

Sir Isaac Newton thought, that the Deity, 
by exifting every where, and at all times, con- 
ftitutes time and ipace, humeri fity and eternity. 
This probably fuggefted to his great friend Dr 
Clarke what he calls the argument a priori 
for the exiftence of an immenfe and eternal Be- 
ing. Space and time, he thought, are only ab- 
flract or partial conceptions of an immenfity and 
eternity, which forces itfelf upon our belief. 
And as immenfity and eternity are not fubftaiv 
ces, they mull be the attributes of a Being who 
is neceffarily immenfe and eternal. Thefe are 
the fpeculations of men of fuperior genius. But 
whether they be as folid as they are fublime, or 
whether they be the wanderings of imagination 
in a region beyond the limits of human under- 
flanding, I am unable to determine. 



The fchoolmen made eternity to be a nuncjians f 
that is, a moment of time, that ftands Hill. This 
was to put a fpoke into the wheel of time, and 
might give fatisfaclion to thofe who are to be 
fatisfied by words without meaning. But I can as 
eafily believe a circle to be a fquare as time to 
ftand ftill. 

Such paradoxes and riddles, if I may fo call 
them, men are involuntarily led into when they 
reafon about time and fpace, and attempt to com- 
prehend their nature. They are probably things 
of which the human faculties give an imperfect 
and inadequate conception. Hence difficulties 
arife which we in vain attempt to overcome, and 
doubts which we are unable to refolve. Per- 
haps fome faculty which we poffefs not, is ne- 
eeffary to remove the darkneis which hangs c- 
ver them, and makes us fo apt to bewilder ouy» 
ielves when we reafon about them. 


Of Identity. 

THE conviction which every man has of his 
identity, as far back as his memory 
jeaches, needs no aid of philofophy to ftrengthen. 
it, and no philofophy can weaken it, without 
firfi producing fome degree of infanity. 

The Philofopher, however, may very proper- 
ly coniider this convidion as a phenomenon of 


4^2 ESSAY Itl. [CHAP. 4." 

human nature worthy of his attention. If he 
can difcover its caufe, an addition is made to" 
his ftock of knowledge : If not, it rauft be held 
as a part of our original conftitution, or an effect 
of that conftitution produced in a manner un- 
known to us. 

We may obferve, firft of all, that this con- 
viction is indifpenfably necefTary to all exercife 
of reafon. The operations of reafon, whether 
in action or in fpeculation, are made up of fuc- 
cefiive parts. The antecedent are the founda- 
tion of the confequent, and without the convic- 
tion that the antecedent have been feen or done 
by me, I could have no reafon to proceed to the 
confequent, in any fpeculation, or in any active 
project whatever. 

There can be no memory of what is pail 
without the conviction that we exifted at the 
time remembered. There may be good argu- 
ments to convince me that I exifted before the 
earlieft thing I can remember ; but to fuppofe 
that my memory reaches a moment farther back 
than my belief and conviction of my exiftence, 
is a contradiction. 

The moment a man lofes this conviction, as 
if he had drunk the water of Lethe, paft things 
are done away ; and, in his own belief, he then 
begins to exift. Whatever was thought, or faid, 
or done, or fuffered, before that period, may be- 
long to fome ether perfon ; but he can never 



impute it to himfelf, or take any fubfequent ftep 
that fuppofes it to be his doing. 

From this it is evident, that we muft have the 
conviction of our own continued exiftence and 
identity, as foon as we are capable of thinking 
or doing any thing, on account of what we have 
thought, or done, or fuffered before ; that is, as 
foon as we are reafonable creatures. 

That we may form as diftinct a notion as we 
are able of this phsenomenon of the human 
mind, it is proper to confider what is meant by 
identity in general, what by our own perfonal 
identity, and how we are led into that invin- 
cible belief and conviction which every man 
has of his own perfonal identity, as far as his 
memory reaches. 

Identity in general, I take to be a relation be- 
tween a thing which is known to exiil at one 
time, and a thing which is known to have exirl- 
ed at another time. If you alk whether they 
are one and the fame, or two different things, e- 
very man of common fenfe understands the 
meaning of your queftion perfectly. Whence 
we may infer with certainty, that every man of 
common fenfe has a clear and diftinct notion of 

If you alk a definition of identity, I confefs I 
can give none ; it is too fimple a notion to ad- 
mit of logical definition : I can fay it is a rela- 
tion, but 1 cannot find words to exprefs the fpe- 



cific difference between this and other relations^ 
though I am in no danger of confounding it 
with any other. I can fay that diverfity is a 
contrary relation, and that limilitude and diffi- 
militude are another couple of contrary rela- 
tions, which every man eafily diftinguifhes iri 
his conception from identity and diverfity. 

I fee evidently that identity fuppofes an unin- 
terrupted continuance of exiftence. That which 
hath ceafed to exift, cannot be the fame with 
that which afterwards begins to exift ; for this 
would be to fuppofe a being to exift after it 
Ceafed to exift, and to have had exiftence before 
it was produced, which are manifeft contradic- 
tions. Continued uninterrupted exiftence is 
therefore neceffarily implied in identity. 

Hence we may infer, that identity cannot, 
in its proper fenfe, be applied to our pains, our 
pleafures, our thoughts, or any operation of our 
minds. The pain felt this day is not the fame 
individual pain which I felt yefterday, though 
they may be fimilar in kind and degree, and 
have the fame caufe. The fame may be faid of 
every feeling, and of every operation of mind i 
They are all fucceffive in their nature like time 
itfelf, no two moments of which can be the fame 

It is otherwife with the parts of abfolute fpace. 
They always are, and were, and will be the 
fame. So far, I think, we proceed upon clear 



ground in fixing the notion of identity in gene- 

It is perhaps more difficult to afcertain with 
precifion the meaning of perfonality ; but it is 
not neceffary in the prefent fubject : It is fuf- 
ficient for our purpofe to obferve, that all man- 
kind place their perfonality in fomething that 
cannot be divided, or confift of parts. A part of 
a perfon is a manifeft abfurdity. 

When a man lofes his eftate, his health, his 
ftrength, he is ftill the fame perfon, and has loft 
nothing of his perfonality. If he has a leg or an 
arm cutoff, he is the fame perfon he was before* 
The amputated member is no part of his perfon, 
otherwife it would have a right to a part of his 
eftate, and be liable for a part of his engage- 
ments : It would be entitled to a fhare of his 
merit and demerit, which is manifeftly abfurd. 1 
A perfon is fomething indivifible, and is what 
Leibnitz calls a monad. 

My perfonal identity, therefore, implies the 
continued exiftence of that indivifible thing 
which I call myfelf. Whatever this felf may 
be, it is fomething which thinks, and deliberates, 
and refolves, and acls, and fuffers. I am not 
thought, I am not action, I am not feeling : I 
am fomething that thinks, and a&s, and fuffers. 
My thoughts, and adtions, and feelings, change 
every moment ; they have no continued, but a 
fucceffive exiftence \ but that felf or i, to which 
. Vol. I. G g they 

466 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 4. 

they belong, is permanent, and has the fame re- 
lation to all the fucceeding thoughts, actions, 
and feelings, which I call mine. 

Such are the notions that I have of my per- 
fonal identity. But perhaps it may be faid, 
this may all be fancy without reality. How do 
you know ; what evidence have you, that there 
is fuch a permanent felf which has a claim to all 
the thoughts, a&ions, and feelings, which you 
call your s ? 

To this I anfwer, that the proper evidence I 
have of all this is remembrance. I remember 
that twenty years ago I- converfed with fuch a 
perfon ; I remember feveral things that paffed 
in that converfation ; my memory teftifies not 
only that this was done, but that it was done by 
me who now remember it : If it was done by me, 
I muft have exiited at that time, and continued to 
exift from that time to the prefent : If the iden- 
tical perfon whom I call my felf, had not a part 
in that converfation, my memory is fallacious ; 
it gives a diftinct and politive teftimony of what 
is not true. Every man in his fenfes believes 
what he diftin&ly remembers, and every thing 
he remembers convinces him that he exifted at 
the time remembered. 

Although memory gives the molt irrefiftible 
evidence of my being the identical perfon that 
did fuch a thing, at fuch a time, I may have 
other good evidence of things which befel me,. 



and which I do not remember : I know who 
bare me, and fuckled me, but I do not remem- 
ber thefe events. 

It may here be obferved, (though the obfer- 
vation would have been unneceffary, if fome 
great Philofophers had not contradicted it), that 
it is not my remembering any action of mine 
that makes me to be the perfon who did it. This 
remembrance makes me to know alfuredly that 
1 did it ; but I might have done it, though I did 
not remember it. That relation to me, which 
is exprefTed by faying that I did it, would be the 
fame, though I had not the leaft remembrance 
of it. To fay that my remembering that I did 
fuch a thing, or, as fome choofe to exprefs it, my 
being confcious that I did it, makes me to have 
done it, appears to me as great an abfurdity as 
it would be to fay, that my belief that the world 
was created, made it to be created. 

When we pafs judgment on the identity of 
other perfons befides ourfelves, we proceed upon 
other grounds, and determine from a variety of 
circumftances, which fometimes produce the firm- 
eft affurance, and fometimes leave room for doubt. 
The identity of perfons has often furniihed mat- 
ter of ferious litigation before tribunals of 
juflice. But no man of a found mind ever 
doubted of his own identity, as far as he di- 
stinctly remembered. 

Ggi The 

468 ESSAY III. jjCHAP. 4. 

The identity of a perfon is a perfect identity ; 
wherever it is real, it admits of no degrees ; 
and it is impofiible that a perfon mould be in 
part the fame, and in part different \ becaufe a 
perfon is a monad, and is not divilible into parts. 
The evidence of identity in other perfons be- 
fides ourfelves, does indeed admit of all degrees, 
from what we account certainty, to the leaft de- 
gree of probability. But Hill it is true, that the 
fame perfon is perfectly the fame, and cannot be 
fo in part, or in fome degree only. 

For this caufe, I have firft confidered perfonal 
identity, as that which is perfect, in its kind, 
and the natural meafure of that which is im- 

We probably at firft derive our notion of iden- 
tity from that natural conviclion which every 
man has from the dawn of reafon of his own 
identity and continued exigence. The opera- 
tions of our minds are all fucceffive, and have no 
continued exiilence. But the thinking being 
has a continued exiilence, and we have an in- 
vincible belief, that it remains the fame when 
all its thoughts and operations change. 

Our judgments of the identity of objects of 
fenfe feem to be formed much upon the fame 
grounds as our judgments of the identity of other 
perfons belides ourfelves. 

Wherever we obferve great fimilarity, we are 
apt to prefume identity ; if no reafon appears to 



the contrary. Two objects ever fo like, when 
they are perceived at the fame time, cannot be 
the fame : But if they are prefented to our fen- 
fes at different times, we are apt to think them 
the fame, merely from their fimilarity. 

Whether this be a natural prejudice, or from 
whatever caufe it proceeds, it certainly appears 
in children from infancy ; and, when we grow 
up, ' it is confirmed in moft inftances by expe- 
rience : For we rarely find two individuals of 
the fame fpecies that are not diftinguifhable by 
obvious differences. 

A maa challenges a thief whom he finds in 
poffeflion of his horfe or his watch, only on fi- 
milarity. When the watchmaker fvvears that he 
fold this watch to fuch a perfon, his teftimonyis 
grounded on fimilarity. The teftimony of wit- 
neffes to the identity of a perfon is commonly 
grounded on no other evidence. 

Thus it appears, that the evidence we have of 
our own identity, as far back as we remember, is 
totally of a different kind from the evidence we 
have of the identity of other perfons, or of ob- 
jects of fenfe. The fir ft is grounded on memory, 
and gives undoubted certainty. The laft is 
grounded on fimilarity, and on other circum- 
ftances, which in many cafes are not fo decifive 
as to leave no room for doubt. 

It may likewife be obferved, that the identity 
of objects of fenfe is never perfect. All bodies, 

G g 3 as 

47^ essay nr. [chap. 4, 

as they confift of innumerable parts that may be 
disjoined from them by a great variety of caufes, 
are Tubject to continual changes of their fub- 
itance, increasing, dimifning. changing infen- 
fibly. When fuch alterations are gradual, be- 
caufe language could not afford a different name 
for every different Hate of fuch a changeable be- 
ing, it retains the fame name, and is considered 
as the fame thing. Thus we fay of an old regi- 
ment, that it did fuch a thing a century ago, 
though there now is not a man alive who then 
belonged to it. We fay a tree is the fame in 
the feed-bed and in the foreft. A fhip of war, 
which has fucceffively changed her anchors, her 
tackle, her fails, her mails, her planks, and her 
timbers, while me keeps the fame name, is the 

The identity therefore which we afcribe to 
bodies, whether natural or artificial, is not per- 
fect identity ; it is rather fomething, which, for 
the conveniency of fpeech, we call identity. It 
-admits of a great change of the fubject, provid- 
ing the change be gradual, lometimes even of a 
total change. And the changes which in com- 
mon language are made confident with identity, 
differ from thofe that are thought to deiiroy it, 
not in kind, hut in number and degree. It has 
no fixed nature when applied to bodies ; and 
questions about the identity of a body are very 
often queitions about words. But identity, when 


locke's account of the idea of duration. 471 

applied to perfons, has no ambiguity, and admits 
not of degrees, or of more and lefs : It is the 
foundation of all rights and obligations, and of 
•all accountablenefs ; and the notion of it is fixed 
and precife. 


Mr Locke's Account of the Origin of our Ideas, 
■and particularly of the Idea of Duration. 

IT was a very laudable attempt of Mr Locke 
" to inquire into the original of thofe ideas, 
" notions, or whateyer you pleafe to call them, 
" which a manobferves, and is confciousto him- 
" felf he has in his mind, and the ways where - 
44 by the underftanding comes to be furnifhed 
" with them." No man was better qualified 
for this invettigation ; and I believe no man 
ever engaged in it with a more fincere love of 

His fuccefs, though great, would, I apprehend, 
have been greater, if he had not too early form- 
ed a fyftem or hypothecs upon this fubject, with- 
out all the caution and patient induction, which 
is necelTary in drawing general conclufions from 

The fum of his doctrine I take to be this, 

" That all our ideas or notions may be reduced 

G g 4 to 

472 sssay in. [chap. 5. 

to two claries, the Ample and the complex: 
That the Ample are purely the work of Nature, 
the understanding being merely paflive in re- 
ceiving them : That they are all fuggefted by 
two powers of the mind, to wit, fenfation and 
rj^fleition ; and that they are the materials of 
all our knowledge. That the other clafs of 
complex ideas are formed by the understanding / 
itfelf, which being once stored with fimple ideas 
of fenfation and reflection, has the power to re- 
peat, to compare, and to combine them even to 
an almost infinite variety, and fo can make at 
pleafure new complex ideas : But that it is not 
in the power of the moll exalted wit, or enlar- 
ged understanding, by any quickneis or variety 
of thought, to invent or frame one new fimple 
idea in the mind, not taken, in by the two ways 
before mentioned. That as our power over the 
material world reaches only to the compounding, 
dividing, and putting together, in various forms ? 
the matter which God has made, but reaches not 
to the production or annihilation of a single a- 
tom 5 fo we may compound, compare, and ab- 
ftract the original and Iimple ideas which Nature 
has given us ; but are unable to falhion in our 
understanding any fimple idea, not received in 
by our fenfes from external objects, or by reflec- 
tion from the operations of our own mind about 


Locke's account of the idea of duration. 473 

This account of the origin of all our ideas is 
adopted by Bilhop Berkeley and Mr Hume ; 
but lbme very ingenious Phiiofophers, who have 
a high eiteem of Locke's Effay, are diffatis- 
fied with it. 

Dr Hutchinson of Glafgow, in his Enquiry 
into the Ideas of Beauty and Virtue, has en- 
deavoured to fliow that thefe are original and 
limple ideas, furnithed by original powers, which 
he calls the ienfe of beauty and the moral 

Dr Price, in his Review of the Principal 
Queftions and Difficulties in Morals, has obfer- 
ved very juftly, that if we take the words fen- 
fation and reflection, as Mr Locke has defined 
them in the beginning of his excellent Effay, 
it will be impoffible to derive fome of the mofl 
important of our ideas from them ; and that, by 
the underftanding, that is by our judging and 
reafoning power, we are furnilhed with many 
fimple and original notions. 

Mr Locke fays, that, by reflection, he would 
be understood to mean " the notice which the 
" mind takes of its own operations, and the man- 
** ner of them." This, I think, we commonly 
call confcioufnefs \ from which, indeed, we de- 
rive all the notions we have of the operations 
of our own minds ' 7 and he often fpeaks of the 
operations of our own minds, as the only objects 
of reflection. 


474 essay in. [chap. 5, 

When reflection is taken in this confined fenfe, 
to fay, that all our ideas are ideas either of fen- 
fation or reflection, is to fay, that every thing 
we can conceive is either fome object of fenfe, 
or fome operation of our own minds, which is 
far from being true. 

But the word reflection is commonly ufed in 
a much more extenfive fenfe ; it is applied to 
many operations of the mind, with more pro- 
priety than to that of confcioufnefs. We re- 
flect, when we remember, or call to mind what 
is pad, and furvey it with attention. We reflect, 
when we define, when we diftinguifh, when we 
judge, when we reafon, whether about things 
material or intellectual. 

When reflection is taken in this fenfe, which 
is more common, and therefore more proper 
than the fenfe which Mr Locke has put upon 
it, it may be juftly faid to be the only fource of 
all our diltinct and accurate notions of things. 
For, although our firfl notions of material things 
are got by the external fenfes, sand our firft no- 
tions of the operations of our own minds by 
confcioufnefs, thefe firft notions are neither Am- 
ple nor clear. Our fenfes and our confcioufnefs 
are continually fhifting from one object to an- 
other ; their operations are tranfient and mo- 
mentory,'and leave no diftinct notion of their 
objects, until they are recalled by memory, exa- 

iocke's account of the idea of duration. 475 

mined with attention, and compared with other 

This reflection is not one power of the mind ; 
it comprehends many ; fuch as recollection, at- 
tention, diftinguiihing, comparing, judging. By 
thefe powers our minds are furnilhed not only 
with many fimple and original notions, but with 
all our notions, which are accurate and well de- 
fined, and which alone are the proper materials 
of reafoning. Many of thefe, are neither notions 
of the objects of fenfe, nor of the operations of 
our own minds, and therefore neither ideas of 
. fenfation, nor of reflection, in the fenfe that Mr 
Locke gives to reflection. But if any one choofes 
to call them ideas of reflection, taking the word 
in the more common and proper fenfe, I have no 

Mr Locke feems to me to have ufed the word 
reflection fometimes in that limited fenfe which 
he has given to it in the definition before men- 
tioned, and fometimes to have fallen unawares 
into the common fenfe of the word ; and by this 
ambiguity his account of the origin of our ideas 
is darkened and perplexed. 

Having premifed thefe things in general of 
Mr Locke's theory of the origin of our ideas or 
notions, I proceed to fome obfervations on his 
account of vhe idea of duration. 

" Reflection, he fays, upon the train of ideas, 
" which appea| one after another in our minds, 

476 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 5. 

" is that which furnifhes us with the idea of fuc- 
" ceflion ; and the diftance between any two 
" parts of that fucceffion, is that we call du- 
" ration." 

If it be meant that the idea of fucceffion is 
prior to that of duration, either in time, or in 
the order of nature, this, I think, is impoffible, 
becaufe fucceffion, as Dr Price juftly obferves, 
prefuppofes duration, and can in no fenfe be prior 
to it ; and therefore it would be more proper 
to derive the idea of fucceffion from that of 

But how do we get the idea of fucceffion ? It 
is, fays he, by reflecting upon the train of ideas, 
which appear one after another in our minds. 

Reflecting upon the train of ideas can be no- 
thing but remembering it, and giving attention 
to what our memory teftifies concerning it 5 for 
if we did not remember it, we could not have 
a thought about it. So that it is evident that 
this reflection includes remembrance, without 
which there could be no reflection on what is 
paft, and confequently no idea of fucceffion. 

It may here be obferved, that if we fpeak 
ftrictly and philofophically, no kind of fuccef- 
fion can be an object either of the fenfes, or of 
confcioufnefs ; becaufe the operations of both 
are confined to the prefent point of -time, and 
there can be no fucceffion in a point of time ; 
and on that account the motion cf a body, which 


locke's account of the idea of duration 477 

is a fucceffive change of place, could not be ob- 
ferved by the fenfes alone without the aid of 

As this obfervation feems to contradict the 
common fenfe and common language of man- 
kind, when they affirm that they fee a body 
move, and hold motion to be an object of the 
fenfes, it is proper to take notice, that this con- 
tradiction between the Philofopher and the vul- 
gar is apparent only, and not real. It arifes 
from this, that Philofophers and the vulgar dif- 
fer in the meaning they put upon what is called 
the prefent time, and are thereby led to make a 
different limit between fenfe and memory. 

Philofophers give the name of the prefent to 
that indiviiible point of time, which divides the 
future from the pall : But the vulgar find irmore 
convenient in the affairs of life, to give the name 
of prefent to a portion of time, which extends 
more or lefs, according to circum fiances, into the 
part or the future. Hence we fay, the prefent 
hour, the prefent year, the prefent century, 
though one point, only of thefe periods can be 
prefent in the philofopMcal fenfe. 

It has been obferved by Grammarians, that 

the prefent tenfe in verb", is not confined to an 

indiviiible point of time, but is fo far extended as 

-to have a beginning, a middle, and an end ; and 

that in the moil copious and accurate languages, 


478 essay in. [chAp. & 

thefe different parts of the prefent are diftin- 
guifhed by different forms of the verb. 

As the purpofes of converfation make it con- 
venient to extend what is called the prefent, the 
fame reafon leads men to extend the province of 
fenfe, and to carry its limit as far back as they 
carry the prefent. Thus a man may fay, I faw 
fuch a perfon juft now ; it would be ridiculous 
to find fault with this way of fpeaking, becaufe 
it is authorifed by cuftom, and has a diltincT: 
meaning : But if we fpeak philofophically, the 
fenfes do not teftify what we faw, but only what 
we fee ; what I faw laft moment I confider as the 
teftimony of fenfe, though it is now only the tes- 
timony of memory. 

There is no neceffity in common life of divi- 
ding accurately the provinces of fenfe and of me- 
mory ; and therefore we affign to fenfe, not an 
indivifible point of time, but that fmall portion 
of time which we call the prefent, which has a 
beginning, a middle, and an end. 

Hence it is eafy to fee, that though in common 
language we fpeak with perfect propriety and 
truth, when we fay, that we fee a body move, 
and that motion is an object of fenfe, yet when 
as Philofophers we diftinguifh accurately the 
province of fenfe from that of memory, we can 
no more fee what is paft, though but a moment 
ago, than w T e can remembeT what is prefent; fo 
that fpeaking philofophically, it is only by the 


locke's account of the idea of duration. 479 

aid of memory that we difcern motion, or any 
fucceffion whatfoever : We fee the prefent place 
of the body ; we remember the fucceffive ad- 
vance it made to that place : The firft can then 
only give us a conception of motion, when join- 
ed to the laft. 

Having considered the account given by Mr 
Locke, of the idea of fucceffion, we mall next 
conlider how, from the idea of fucceffion, he de- 
rives the idea of duration. 

" The diltance, he fays, between any parts of 
" that fucceffion, or between the appearance of 
'" any two ideas in our minds, is that we call du- 
u , ration." 

To conceive this the more diftinctly, let us 
call the diftance between an idea and that which 
immediately fucceeds it, one element of dura- 
tion ; the diftance between an idea and the fe- 
cond that fucceeds it, two elements, and fo on : 
If ten fuch elements make duration, then one 
muft make duration, otherwife duration muft be 
made up of parts that have no duration, which 
is impoffible. 

For, fuppoie a fucceffion of as many ideas as 
you pleafe, if none of thefe ideas have duration, 
nor any interval of duration be between one. and 
another, then it is perfectly evident there can be 
no interval of duration between the firft and the 
Jaft, how great foever their number be. I con« 


480 ESSAY 111. [CHAP. 5. 

elude therefore, that there muft be duration in 
every fingle interval or element of which the 
whole duration is made up. Nothing indeed is 
more certain than that every elementary part of 
duration muft have duration, as every elementary 
part of extenlion muft have extenfion. 
„ Now it muft be obferved, that in thefe elements 
of duration, or fingle intervals of fucceffive ideas, 
there is no fucceffion of ideas, yet we muft con- 
ceive them to have duration ; whence we may 
conclude with certainty, that there is a concep- 
tion of duration, where there is no fucceffion of 
ideas in the mind. 

We may meafure duration by the fucceffion of 
thoughts in the mind, as w T e meafure length by 
inches or feet ; but the notion or idea of dura- 
tion muft be antecedent to the menfuration of 
it, as the notion of length is antecedent to its 
being tneafured. 

Mr Locke draws fome conclufions from his 
account of the idea of duration, which may 
ferve as a touchftone to difcover how far it is ge- 
nuine. One is, that if it were poffible for a 
man awake, to keep only one idea in his mind 
without variation, or the fucceffion of others, he 
would have no perception of duration at all; 
and the moment he began to have this idea, 
would feem to have no diftance from the moment 
he ceafed to have it. 


lockers account of the idea of duration, 481 

Now that one idea (hould feem to have no du- 
ration, and that a multiplication of that no dura- 
tion mould feem to have duration, appears to me 
as impoffible as that the multiplication of nothing 
mould produce fomething. 

Another conclufion which the author draws 
from this theory is, that the fame period of dura- 
tion appears long to us, when the fucceffion of 
ideas in our mind is quick, and fhort when the 
fucceffion is flow. 

There can be no doubt but the fame length of 
duration appears in fome circumftances much 
longer than in others ; the time appears long 
when a man is impatient under any pain or dif- 
trefs, or when he is eager in the expectation of 
fome happinefs : On the other hand, when he is 
pleafed and happy in agreeable converfation, or 
delighted with a variety of agreeable objects that 
(Irike his fenfes, or his imagination, time flies 
away, and appears lhort. 

According to Mr Locke's theory, in the firft 
of thefe cafes, the fucceffion of ideas is very 
quick, and in the laft very flow : I am rather in- 
clined to think that the very contrary is the 
truth. When a man is racked with pain, or 
with expectation, he can hardly think of any 
thing but his diftrefs ; and the more his mind is 
occupied by that fole object, the longer the time 
appears. On the other hand, when he is enter- 
tained with cheerful mufic, with liyely converfa- 
tion, and brilk fallies of wit, there feems to be 

Vol. I. H h the 


the quickeft fueceffion of ideas, but the time ap- 
pears fhorteft. 

I have heard a military officer, a man of can- 
dour and obfervation, fay, that the time he was 
engaged in hot action always appeared to him 
much fhorter than it really was. Yet I think it 
cannot be fuppofed, that the fueceffion of ideas 
was then flower than ufual. 

If the idea of duration were got merely by the 
fueceffion of ideas in our minds, that fueceffion 
mult to ourfelves appear equally quick at all 
times, becaufe the only meafure of duration is 
the number of fucceeding ideas ; but I believe 
every man capable of reflection will be fenfible^ 
that at one time his thoughts come flowly and 
heavily, and at another time have a much quick- 
er and livelier motion. 

I know of no ideas or notions that have a bet- 
ter claim to be accounted Ample and original 
than thofe of fpace and time. It is eflential both 
to fpace and time to be made up of parts, but 
every part is fimilar to the whole, and of the 
fame nature. Different parts of fpace, as it has 
three dimenfions, may diffef both in figure and 
in magnitude ; but time having only one dimen- 
iion, its parts can differ only in magnitude ; and, 
as it is one of the fimpleft objects of thought, 
the conception of it muft be purely the effect of 
our conflitution, and given us by fome original 
power pf the mind. 


Locke's account of the idea of duration. 483 

The fenfe of feeing, by itfelf, gives us the con- 
ception and belief of only two dimenfions of ex- 
tenfion, but the fenfe of touch difcovers three ; 
and reafon, from the contemplation of finite ex- 
tended things, leads us neceffariiy to the belief 
of an immenfity that contains them. In like 
manner, memory gives us the conception and 
belief of finite intervals of duration. From the 
contemplation of thefe, reafon leads us neceffari- 
ly to the belief of an eternity, which compre- 
hends all things that have a beginning and end. 
Our conceptions, both of fpace and time, are 
probably partial and inadequate, and therefore 
we are apt to lofe ourfelves, and to be embarraf- 
fed in our reafonings about them. 

Our underilanding is no lefs puzzled when we 
coniider the minuteft parts of time and fpace 
than when we confide? the whole. We are 
forced to acknowledge, that in their nature they 
are divifible without end or limit ; but there are 
limits beyond which our faculties can divide nei- 
ther the one nor the other. 

It may be determined by experiment, what is 
the leafl angle under which an object may be 
difcerned by the eye, and what is the leafl inter- 
val of duration that may be difcerned by the 
car. I believe thefe may be different in. differ- 
ent perfons : But furely there is a limit which 
no man can exceed : And what our faculties can 
no longer divide is ftill divifible in itfelf, and, by 
H h 2 beings 

484 essay in, [chap. 5. 

beings of fuperior perfection, may be divided 
into thoufands of parts. 

I have reafon to believe, that a good eye in 
the prime of life may fee an object under an 
angle not exceeding half a minute of a degree, 
and I believe there are fome human eyes ftill 
more perfedt. But even this degree of perfec- 
tion will appear great, if we consider how fmall 
a part of the retina of the eye it muft be which 
fubtends an angle of half a minute. 

Suppofing the diilance between the centre of 
the eye and the retina to be fix or feven tenths 
of an inch, the fubtenfe of an angle of half a mi- 
nute to that radius, or the breadth of the image 
of an object feen under that angle, will not be 
above the ten thoufandth part of an inch. This 
fheWs fuch a wonderful degree of accuracy in 
the refracting power of a good eye, that a pencil 
of rays coming from one point of the object iball 
meet in one point of the retina, fo as not to de- 
viate from that point the ten thoufandth part of 
an inch. It fhews, likewife, that fuch a motion 
of an objecl as makes its image on the retina to 
move the ten thoufandth part of an inch, is dif- 
cernible by the mind. 

In order to judge to what degree of accuracy 
we can meafure fhort intervals of time, it may 
be obferved, that one who has given attention to 
the motion of a Second pendulum, will be able 
to beat feconds for a minute with a very fmall 


Locke's account of personal identity* 485 

error. When he continues this exercife long, 
as for five or ten minutes, he is apt to err, 
more even than in proportion to the time, for 
this reafon, as I apprehend, that it is difficult to 
attend long to the moments as they pafs^ with- 
out wandering after fome other object, of thought. 
I have found, by fome experiments, that a 
man may beat feconds for one minute, without 
erring above one fecond in the whole fixty ; and 
I doubt not but by long practice he might do it 
flill more accurately. From this I think it follows, 
that the fixtieth part of a fecond of time is dif- 
cernible by the human mind. 


Of Mr Locke's Account of out perfonal Identity. 

I" N a long chapter upon identity and diverfity, 
A Mr Locke has made many ingenious and 
jttft obfervations, and fome which I think can- 
not be defended. I mail only take notice of the 
account he gives of our own perfonal identity. 
His doctrine upon this fubject has been cenfured 
by Bifhop Butler, in a fhort effay fubjoined to 
his Analogy, with whofe fentiments I perfectly 

Identity, as was obferved chap. 4. of this Ef- 
fay, fuppofes the continued exiftence of the be- 
H h 1 ing 

486 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 6. 

ing of which it is affirmed, and therefore can be 
applied only to things which have a continued 
exiftence. While any being continues to exift, it 
is the fame being ; but two beings which have a 
different beginning or a different ending of their 
exiftence, cannot poffibly be the fame. To this 
I think Mr Locke agrees. 

He obferves very juftly, that to know what is 
meant by the fame perfon, we muft confider what 
the word perfon {lands for ; and he defines a per- 
fon to be an intelligent being, endowed with 
reafon and with confcioufnefs, which laft he 
thinks infeparable from thought. 

From this definition of a perfon, it muft ne- 
ceffarily follow, that while the intelligent being 
continues to exift and to be intelligent, it muft 
be the fame perfon. To fay that the intelligent 
being is the perfon, and yet that the perfon 
ceafes to exift, while the intelligent being conti- 
nues, or that the perfon continues while the in- 
telligent being ceafes to exift, is to my appre- 
henfion a manifeft contradiction. 

One would think that the definition of a 
perfon fhould perfectly afcertain the nature 
of perfonal identity, or wherein it confifts, 
though it might ftill be a queftion how we 
come to know and be affured of our perfonal 

Mr Locke tells us however, " that perfonal 
" identity, that is, the famenefs of a rational 


locke's account of personal identity. 487 

" being, confilts in confcioufnefs alone, and, as 
" far as this confcioufnefs can be extended back- 
" wards to any pall action or thought, fo far 
" reaches the identity of that perfon. So that 
" whatever hath the confcioufnefs of prefent and 
" paft actions, is the fame perfon to whom they 
" belong." 

This doctrine hath fome ftrange confequences, 
which the author was aware of. Such as, that 
if the fame confcioufnefs can be transferred from 
one intelligent being to another, which he 
thinks we cannot fhew to be impoffible, then 
two or twenty intelligent beings may be the 
fame perfon. And if the intelligent being may 
lofe the confcioufnefs of the actions done by him, 
which furely is poffible, then he is not the per- 
fon that did thole actions ; fo that one intelli- 
gent being may be two or twenty different per- 
fons, if he fliall fo often lofe the confcioufnefs of 
his former actions. 

There is another confequence of this doctrine, 
which follows no lefs neceffarily, though Mr 
Locke probably did not fee it. It is, that a 
man may be, and at the fame not be, the perfon 
that did a particular aclion. 

Suppofe a brave officer to have been flogged 
when a boy at fchool, for robbing an orchard, 
to have taken a ftandard from the enemy in his 
fir ft campaign, and to have been made a general 
in advanced life : Suppofe alfo, which muft be 
H h 4 admitted 


admitted to be poflible, that when he took the 
ftandard, he was confcious of his having been 
flogged at fchool, and that when made a general, 
he was confcious of his taking the ftandard, but 
had abfolutely loft the confcioufnefs of his flog- 

Thefe things being fuppofed, it follows, from 

Mr Locke's doctrine, that he who was flogged 
at fchool is the fame perfon who took the ftand- 
ard, and that he who took the ftandard is the 
fame perfon who was made a general. Whence 
it follows, if there be any truth in logic, that 
the general is the fame perfon with him who 
was flogged at fchool. But the general's con- 
fcioufnefs does not reach fo far back as his flog- 
ging, therefore, according to Mr Locke's doc- 
trine, he is not the perfon who was flogged. 
Therefore the general is, and at the fame time 
is not the fame perfon with him who was flog- 
ged at fchool. 

Leaving the confequences of this doctrine to 
thofe who have leifure to trace them, we may ob- 
ferve, with regard to the doctrine itfelf, 

Firjly That Mr Locke attributes to confciouf- 
nefs the conviction we have of our paft actions, 
as if a man may now be confcious of what he, 
did twenty years ago. It is impoflible to under- 
ftand the meaning of this, unlefs by confciouf- 
nefs be meant memory, the only faculty by 


locke's account of personal identity. 489 

which we have an immediate knowledge of our 
paft actions. 

Sometimes, in popular difcourfe, a man fays 
he is confcious that he did fuch a thing, mean- 
ing that he diftinctly remembers that he did it. 
It is unnecefTary, in common difcourfe, to fix ac- 
curately the limits between confcioufnefs and 
memory. This was formerly fhewn to be the 
cafe with regard to fenfe and memory : And 
therefore diftinct remembrance is fometimes call- 
ed fenfe, fometimes confcioufnefs, without any 

But this ought to be avoided in philofophy, 
otherwife we confound the different powers of 
the mind, and afcribe to one what really belongs 
to another. If a man can be confcious of what 
he did twenty years or twenty minutes ago, 
there is no ufe for memory, nor ought we to al- 
low that there is any fuch faculty. The facul- 
ties of confcioufnefs and memory are chiefly di- 
ftinguifhed by this, that the firft is an immedi- 
ate knowledge of the prefent, the fecond an im- 
mediate knowledge of the paft. 

When, therefore, Mr Locke's notion of per 
fonal identity is properly expreffed, it is, that 
perfonaly identity confiils in diftincl remem- 
brance : For, even in the popular fenfe, to fay 
that I am confcious of a paft action, means no- 
thing elfe than that I diftincllv remember that 
I did fc. 


49^ ESSAY III. [chap. 6. 

Secondly, It may be obferved, that, in this 
doctrine, not only is confcioufnefs confounded 
with memory, but, which is ftill more ftrange, 
perfonal identity is confounded with the evi- 
dence which we have of our perfonal identity. 

It is very true, that my remembrance that I 
did iuch a thing is the evidence I have that I 
am the identical perfon who did it. And this, 
I am apt to think, Mr Locke meant: But to 
fay that my remembrance that I did fuch a 
thing, or my confciouihefs, makes me the perfon 
who did it, is, in my apprehenfion, an abfurdity 
too grofs to be entertained by any man who at- 
tends to the meaning of it : For it is to attribute 
to memory or confcioufnefs a ftrange magical 
power of producing its object, though that ob- 
ject mull have exifted before the memory or 
confcioufnefs which produced it. 

Confcioufnefs is the teftimony of one faculty ; 
memory is the teftimony of another faculty : 
And to fay that the teftimony is the caufe of 
the thing teftified, this furely is abfurd, if any 
thing be, and could not have been laid by Mr 
Locke, if he had not confounded the teftimony 
with the thing teftified. 

When a horfe that was ftolen is found and 
claimed by the owner, the only evidence he can 
have, or that a judge or witneiTes can have, that 
this is the very identical horfe which was his 
property, is fimilitude. But would it not be 



locke's account of personal identity. 491 

ridiculous from this to infer that the identity of 
a horfe confifts in fimilitude only ? The only 
evidence I have that I am the identical perfon 
who did fuch actions is, that I remember di- 
ftinctly I did them; or, as Mr Locke expreffes 
it, I am confcious I did them. To infer from 
this, that perfonal identity confifts in confciouf- 
nefs, is an argument, which, if it had any force, 
would prove the identity of a ftolen horfe to 
confift folely in fimilitude. 

Thirdly, Is it not ftrange that the famenefs 
or identity of a perfon fhould confift in a thing 
which is continually changing, and is not any 
two minutes the fame ? 

Our confcioufnefs, our memory, and every 
operation of the mind, are ftill flowing like the 
water of a river, or like time itfelf. The con- 
fcioufnefs I have this moment, can no more be 
the fame confcioufnefs I had laft moment, than 
this moment can be the laft moment. Identity 
can only be affirmed of things which have a 
continued exiftence. Confcioufnefs, and every 
kind of thought, is traniicnt and momentary, 
and has no continued exiftence ; and therefore, 
if perfonal identity coniifted in confcioufnefs, it 
would certainly follow, that no man is the fame 
perfon any two moments of his life ; and as the 
right and juftice of reward and punifhment is 
founded on perfonal identity, no man could be 
refponfible for his actions. 


492 ESSAY III. [chap. 6* 

But though I take this to be the unavoidable 
confequence of Mr Locke's doclrine concern- 
ing perfonal identity, and though fome perfons 
may have liked the doclrine the better on this 
account, I am far from imputing any thing of 
this kind to Mr Locke. He was too good a 
man not to have rejected with abhorrence a 
doclrine which he believed to draw this confe- 
quence after it. 

Fourthly y There are many expreffions ufed by 
Mr Locke in fpeaking of perfonal identity, 
which to me are altogether unintelligible, un- 
lefs we fuppofe that he confounded that fame- 
nefs or identity, which we abfcribe to an indi- 
vidual, with the identity which in common dif- 
courfe is often afcribed to many idividuals of the 
fame fpecies. 

When we fay that pain and pleafure, confci- 
oufnefs and memory, are the fame in all men, 
this famenefs can only mean fimilarity, or fame- 
nefs of kind ; but that the pain of one man can 
be the fame individual pain with that of another 
man, is no lefs impoffible than that one man 
fhould be another man ; the pain felt by me 
yefterday, can no more be the pain I feel to-day, 
than yefterday can be this day ; and the fame 
thing may be faid of every paffion and of every 
operation of the mind : The fame kind or fpe- 
cies of operation may be in different men, or in 
the fame man at different times ; but it is im- 


poffible that the fame individual operation 
fhould be in different men, or in the fame man 
at different times. 

When Mr Locke therefore fpeaks of " the 
" fame confcioufnefs being continued through a 
" fucceffion of different fubftances ;" when he 
fpeaks of " repeating the idea of a paft action, 
" with the fame confcioufnefs we had of it at the 
" firft," and of " the fame confcioufnefs extend- 
ing to actions paft and to come;" thefe ex- 
preflions are to me unintelligible, unlefs he means 
not the fame individual confcioufnefs, but a con- 
fcioufnefs that is limilar, or of the fame kind. 

If our perfonal identity confilts in confciouf- 
nefs, as this confcioufnefs cannot be the fame in- 
dividually any two moments, but only of the 
fame kind, it would follow, that we are not for 
any two moments the fame individual perfons, 
but the fame kind of perfons. 

As our confcioufnefs fometimes ceafes to ex- 
ift, as in found lleep, our perfonal identity mull 
ceafe with it. Mr Locke allows, that the fame 
thing cannot have two beginnings of exiflence, 
fo that our identity would be irrecoverably gone 
every time we ceafe to think, if it was but for 
a moment. 


494 essay in. [chap. 7. 


Theories concerning Memory. 

THE common theory of ideas, that is of 
images in the brain or in the mind, of all 
the obje&s of thought, has been very generally 
applied to account for the faculties of memory 
and imagination, as well as that of perception by 
the fenfes. 

The fentiments of the Peripatetics are expref- 
fed by Alexander Aphrodisiensis, one of the 
earlieit Greek Commentators on Aristotle, in 
thefe words, as they are tranflated by Mr Har- 
ris in his Hermes, " Now what fancy or ima- 
" gination is, we may explain as follows : We 
" may conceive to be formed within us, from 
" the operations of our fenfes about fenlible ob- 
" jecis, fome impreflion, as it were, or picture in 
" our original fenforium, being a relicr. of that 
" motion caufed within us by the external ob- 
" ject ; a relidt, which when the external ob- 
" jecl is no longer prefent, remains, and is (till 
" prefer ved, being as it were its image, and 
" which, by being thus preferved, becomes the 
" caufe of our having memory : Now fuch a 
" fort of relidt, and as it were impreffion, they 
** call fancy or imagination." 



Another paffage from Alcinous of the doc- 
trines o/Plato, chap. 4. ihews the agreement of 
the ancient Platonifts and Peripatetics in this 
theory, " When the form or type of things is 
" imprinted on the mind by the organs of the 
" fenfes, and fo imprinted as not to be deleted 
*' by time, but preferved firm and lading, its 
" prefervation is called memory." 

Upon this principle Aristotle imputes the 
fhortnefs of memory in children to this caufe, 
that their brain is too moift and foft to retain 
impreffions made upon it : And the defect of 
memory in old men he imputes, on the contrary, 
to the hardnefs and rigidity of the brain, which 
hinders its receiving any durable impremon. 

This ancient theory of the caufe of memory 
is defective in two refpects : Fir/l, If the caufe 
affigned did really exift, it by no means accounts 
for the phenomenon : And, feco?idly, There is 
no evidence, nor even probability, that that caufe 

It is probable, that in perception fome impref- 
fion is made upon the brain as well as upon the 
organ and nerves, becaufe all the nerves termi- 
nate in the brain, and becaufe diforders and hurts 
of the brain are found to affect, our powers of 
perception when the external organ and nerve 
are found ; but we are totally ignorant of the 
nature of this impremon upon the brain : It can 
have no refemblance to the object perceived, 


496 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 7. 

nor does it in any degree account for that fenfa- 
tion and perception which are confequent upon 
it. Thefe things have been argued in the fecond 
ElTay, and fhall now be taken for granted, to 
prevent repetition. 

If the impreffion upon the brain be infufficient 
to account for the perception of objects that are 
prefent, it can as little account for the memory 
of thofe that are paft. 

So that if it were certain, that the impreffions 
made on the brain in perception remain as long 
as there is any memory of the object : all that 
could be inferred from this is, that, by the laws 
of Nature, there is a connection eftablifhed be- 
tween that impreffion, and the remembrance of 
that object. But how the impreffion contributes 
to this remembrance, we mould be quite igno- 
rant ; it being impoffible to difcover how thought 
of any kind mould be produced, by an impref- 
fion on the brain, or upon any part of the body. 

To fay that this impreffion is memory, is ab- 
furd, if understood literally. If it is only meant 
that it is the caufe of memory, it ought to be 
ihown how it produces this effect, otherwife me- 
mory remains as unaccountable as before. 

If a Philofopher mould undertake to account 
for the force of gunpowder, in the difcharge of 
a mulket, and then tell us gravely, that the caufe 
of this phenomenon is the drawing of the trig- 
ger, we mould not be much wifer by this ac- 


count. As little are we inftructed in the caufe 
of memory, by being told that it is caufed by a 
certain impreflion on the brain. For fuppofing, 
that impreflion on the brain were as neceffary to 
memory as the drawing of the trigger is to the 
difcharge of the muiket, we are (till as ignorant 
as we were how memory is produced ; fo that, 
if the caufe of memory, afligned by this theory, 
did really exift, it does not in any degree ac- 
count for memory. 

Another defect in this theory is, that there is 
no evidence, nor probability that the caufe aflign- 
ed does exift ; that is, that the impreflion made 
upon the brain in perception remains after the 
object is removed. 

That impreflion, whatever be its nature, is 
caufed by the impreflion made by the object up- 
on the organ of fenfe, and upon the nerve. Phi- 
lofophers fuppofe, without any evidence, that 
when the object is removed, and the impreflion 
upon the organ and nerve ceafes, the impreflion 
upon the brain continues, and is permanent ; 
that is, that when the caufe is removed the effect 
continues. The brain furely does not appear 
more fitted to retain an impreflion than the or- 
gan and nerve. 

But granting that the impreflion upon the 
brain continues after its caufe is removed, its ef- 
fects ought to continue while it continues ; that 
is, the fenfation and perception fhould be as per- 

Vol. I. I i manenf 

4P8 ESSAY III. [CI^AP. 7, 

manent as the impreffion upon the brain, which 
is fuppofed to be their caufe. But here again 
the Philofopher makes a fecond fuppofition, with 
as little evidence, but of a contrary nature, to 
wit, that, while the caufe remains, the effect 

If this mould be granted alfo, a third mull be 
made, That the fame caufe, which at firft pro- 
duced fenfation and perception, does afterwards 
produce memory ; an operation effentially dif- 
ferent, both from fenfation and perception. 

A fourth fuppofition muft be made, That this 
caufe, though it be permanent, does not produce 
its effecl: at all times ; it mull be like an inscrip- 
tion which is fometimes covered with rubbifh, 
and on other occafions made legible : For the 
memory of things is often interrupted for a long 
time, and circumftances bring to our recollec- 
tion what had been long forgot. After all, 
many things are remembered which were never 
perceived by the fenfes, being no objects of 
fenfe, and therefore, which could make no im- 
preffion upon the brain by means of the fenfes. 

Thus, when Philofophers have piled one fup- 
pofition upon another, as the giants piled the 
mountains, in order to fcale the heavens, all is 
to no purpofe, memory remains unaccountable ; 
and we know as little how we remember things 
pail, as how we are confcious of the prefent. 



But here, it is proper to ohferve, that although 
impreffions upon the brain give no aid in ac- 
counting for memory, yet it is very probable, 
that, in the human frame, memory is dependent 
on fome proper ftate or temperament of the 

Although the furniture of our memory bears 
no refemblande to any temperament of brain 
whatfoever, as indeed it is impoffible it mould ; 
yet Nature may have fubjected us to this law, 
that a certain constitution or ftate of the brain 
is neceflary to memory. That this is really the 
cafe, many well known facts lead us to con- 

It is poflible, that, by accurate- obfervation, 
the proper means may be difcovered of preser- 
ving that temperament of the brain which is fa- 
vourable to memory, and of remedying the dis- 
orders of that temperament. This would be a 
very noble improvement of the medical art. But 
if it mould ever be attained, it would give no 
aid to underftand how one ftate of the brain af- 
iifts memory, and another hurts it. 

I know certainly, that the impreflion made 
upon my hand by the prick of a pin occaiions 
acute pain. But can any Philofopher fhow how 
this caufe produces the effect ? The nature of 
the impreflion is here perfectly known ; but it 
gives no help to underftand how that impreflion 
affects the mind ; and if we knew as diftinctly 

I i 1 that 


that ft ate of the brain which caufes memory, 
we mould flill be as ignorant as before how 
that ft ate contributes to memory. We might 
have been fo conftituted, for any thing that I 
know, that the prick of a pin in the hand, in- 
ilead of caufing pain, mould caufe remem- 
brance ; nor would that conftitution be more 
unaccountable than the prefent. 

The body and mind operate on each other, 
according to fixed laws of Nature ; and it is 
the bufinefs of a Philofopher to difrover thole 
laws by obfervation and experiment : But, when 
he has difcovered them, he mult reft in them as 
facts, whole caufe is infcrutable to the human 

Mr Locke, and thofe who have followed 
him, fpeak with more referve than the ancients, 
and only incidentally, of impreffions on the 
brain as the caufe of memory, and impute it ra- 
ther to our retaining in our minds the ideas, got 
either by fenfation or reflection. 

This, Mr Locke fays, may be done two 
ways ; " Firjl, By keeping the idea for fome 
" time actually in view, which is called contem- 
" plaiion. Secondly, By the power to revive 
" again in our minds thofe ideas, which, after 
" imprinting, have disappeared, or have been, 
" as it were, laid out of fight ; and this is me- 
'* mory, which is, as it were, the ftorehoufe of 
t( our ideas." 



To explain this more diftinctly, he "immedi- 
ately ad-is the following obfervation : " But 
** our ideas being nothing but actual perceptions 
" in the mind, which ceafe to be any thing, 
" when there is no perception of them, this lay- 
" ing up of our ideas in the repofitory of the 
" memory, fignifies no more but this, that the 
" mind has a power, in many cafes, to revive 
u perceptions which it once had, with this ad- 
" ditional perception annexed to them, that it 
'' has had them before ; and in this fenfe it is, 
" that our ideas are faid to be in our memories, 
" when indeed they are actually no where ; but 
" only there is an ability in the mind, when it 
" will, to revive them again, and, as it were, 
" paint them anew upon itfelf, though fome 
" with more, fome with lefs, difficulty, fome 
" more lively, and others more obfcurely." 

In this account of memory, the repeated ufe 
of the phrafe, as it were, leads one to judge 
that it is partly figurative : we muft therefore 
endeavour to dift inguifh the figurative part from 
the philofophical. The firft being addreffed to 
the imagination, exhibits a picture of memory, 
which, to have its effect, muft be viewed at a 
proper diftance, and from a particular point of 
view. The fecond being addreffed to the un- 
derftanding, ought to bear a near infpection, 
and a critical examination. 

I i 3, The 


The analogy between memory and a repofitory, 
and between remembring and retaning, is obvi- 
ous, and is to be found in all languages, it being 
very natural to exprefs the operations of the 
mind by images taken from things material. But 
in philofophy we ought to draw afide the veil 
of imagery, and to view them naked. 

When therefore memory is faid to be a repofi- 
tory or ftorehoufe of ideas, where they are laid 
up when not perceived, and again brought forth 
as there is opcafion, I take this to be popular and 
rhetorical. For the author tells us, that when 
they are not perceived, they are nothing, and no 
where, and therefore can neither be laid up in a 
repofitory, nor drawn out of it. 

But we are told, " That this laying up of our 
'* ideas in the repofitory of the memory figni- 
" fies no more than this, that the mind has a 
" power to revive perceptions, which it once 
" had, with this additional perception annexed 
" to them, that it has had them before." This, 
I think, muft be underftood literally and philo- 

But it feems to me as difficult to revive things 
that have ceafed to be any thing, as to lay 
them up in a repofitory, or to bring them out 
of it. When a thing is once annihilated, the 
fame thing cannot be again produced, though 
another thing fimilar to it may. Mr Locke, 
in another place, acknowledges, that the 



lame thing cannot have two beginnings of exift- 
ence ; and that things that have different be- 
ginnings are not the fame, but diverfe. From 
this it follows, that an ability to revive our ideas 
or perceptions, after they have ceaied to be, can 
fignify no more but an ability to create new 
ideas or perceptions fimilar to thofe we had be- 

They are faid " to be revived, with this ad- 
" ditional perception, that we have had them 
" before." This, furely, would be a fallaci- 
ous perception, lince they could not have two 
beginnings of exiftence ; nor could we believe 
them to have two beginnings of exiftence. We 
can only believe, that we had formerly ideas or 
perceptions very like to them, though not iden- 
tically the fame. But whether we perceive 
them to be the fame, or only like to thofe we 
had before, this perception, one would think, 
fuppofes a remembrance of thofe we had before, 
othervvife the iimilitude or identity could not be 

Another phrafe is ufed to explain this revi- 
ving of our perceptions. " The mind, as it 
" were, paints them anew upon itfelf." There 
may be fomething figurative in this ; but ma- 
king due allowance for that, it mull imply, that 
the mind, which paints the things that have 
ceafed to exift, muft have the memory of what 
they were, fince every painter muft have a copy 
I i 4 either 

504 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 7, 

either before his eye, or in his imagination and 

Thefe remarks upon Mr Locke's account of 
memory are intended to (how, that his fyftem 
of ideas gives no light to this faculty, but rather 
tends to darken it ; as t lifctle does it make us un- 
derftand how we remember, and by that means 
have the certain knowledge of things paft. 

Every man knows what memory is, and has a 
diftincT- notion of it: But when Mr Locke 
fpeaks of a power to revive in the mind thofc 
ideas, which, after imprinting, have disappear- 
ed, or have been, as it were, laid out of fight, 
one would hardly know this to be memory, if 
he had not told us. There are other things 
which it feems to refemble at lead as much. I 
fee before me the picture of a friend. I (hut 
my eyes, or turn them another way j and the 
picture difappears, or is, as it were, laid out of 
fight. I have a power to turn my eyes again 
towards the picture, and immediately the per- 
ception is revived. But is this memory ? no 
furely ; yet it anfwers the definition as well as 
memory itfelf can do. 

We may obferve, that the word perception is 
ufed by Mr Locke in too indefinite a way, as 
well as the word idea. 

Perception, in the chapter upon that Subject, 
is faid to be the firlt faculty of the mind exer- 
cifed about our ideas. Here we are told, that 



ideas are nothing but perceptions : Yet I appre- 
hend it would found oddly to fay, that percep- 
tion is the firft faculty of the mind exercifed a- 
bout perception ; and ftill more ftrangely to 
fay, that ideas are the firft faculty of the mind 
exercifed about our ideas. But why mould not 
ideas be a faculty as well as perception, if both 
are the fame ? 

Memory is faid to be a power to revive our 
perceptions. Will it not follow from this, that 
every thing that can be remembered is a per- 
ception ? If this be fo, it will be difficult to find 
any thing in nature but perceptions. 

Our ideas, we are told, are nothing but actual 
perceptions 5 but in many places of the Eflay, 
ideas are faid to be the objects of perception, and 
that the mind, in all its thoughts and reafonings, 
has no other immediate object which it does or 
can contemplate but its own ideas. Does it not 
appear from this, either that Mr Locke held the 
operations of the mind to be the fame thing with 
the objects of thofe operations, or that he ufed 
the word idea fometimes in one fenfe and fome- 
times in another, without any intimation, and 
probably without any apprehenfion of its ambi- 
guity ? It is an article of Mr Hume's philofophy, 
that there is no diftinftion between the opera- 
tions of the mind and their objects. But I fee 
no reafon to impute this opinion to Mr Locke. 
I rather think, that, notwithstanding his great 


5° 6 ESSAY in. [chap. 7. 

judgment and candour, his under (landing was 
entangled by the ambiguity of the word idea, 
and that moft of the imperfections of his Eflay 
are owing to that caufe. 

Mr Hume faw farther into the confequences of 
the common fyftem concerning ideas than any 
author had done before him. He faw the ab- 
furdity of making every object of thought double, 
and fplitting it into a remote objecl:, which has 
a feparate and permanent exiftence, and an im- 
mediate objecl:, called an idea or impreffion, 
which is an image of the former, and has no ex- 
iftence, but when we are confcious of it. Ac- 
cording to this fyftem, we have no intercourfe 
with the external world, but by means of the 
internal world of ideas, which reprefents the 
other to the mind. 

He faw it was necefTary to reject one of thefe 
worlds as a fiction, and the queftion was, Which 
fhould be rejected? Whether all mankind, 
learned and unlearned, had feigned the exiftence 
of the external world without good reafon ? or 
whether Philofophers had feigned the internal 
world of ideas, in order to account for the inter- 
courfe of the mind with the external ? Mr 
Hume adopted the firft of thefe opinions, and 
employed his reafon and eloquence in fupport of 


Bifliop Berkeley had gone fo far in the fame 

track as to reject the material world as fictitious ; 



but it was left to Mr Hume to complete the fy- 

According to his fyftem, therefore, impreffions 
and ideas in his own mind are the only things a 
man can know, or can conceive : Nor are thefe 
ideas reprefentatives, as they were in the old 
fyftem. There is nothing elfe in nature, or at 
leaft within the reach of our faculties, to be re- 
prefented. What the vulgar call the perception 
of an external object, is nothing but a ftrongim- 
preffion upon the mind. Whatf we call the re- 
membrance of a pall event, is nothing but a pre- 
fent impreflion or idea, weaker than the former. 
And what we call imagination, is ftill a prefent 
idea, but weaker than that of memory. 

That I may not do him injuftice, thefe are his 
words in his Treatife of Human Nature, page 


" We find by experience, that when any im- 

" predion has been prefent with the mind, it 
" again makes its appearance there as an idea •, 
" and this it may do after two different ways, 
" either when in its new appearance it retains a 
" confiderable degree of its firft vivacity, and is 
" fomewhat intermediate betwixt an imprefTion 
" and an idea, or when* it entirely lofes that vi- 
" vacity, and is a perfect idea. The faculty by 
" which we repeat our impreffions in the firft 
'* manner, is called the memory, and the other 
" the imagination," 


508 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 7. 

Upon this account of memory and imagina- 
tion I (hall make fome remarks. 

Firft, I wifh to know, what we are here to 
underftand by experience ? It is faid, we find all 
this by experience ; and I conceive nothing can 
be meant by this experience but memory. Not 
that memory which our author defines, but me- 
mory in the common acceptation of the word. 
According to vulgar apprehenfion, memory is an 
immediate knowledge of fomething pall. Our 
author does not admit that there is any fuch 
knowledge in the human mind. He maintains 
that memory is nothing but a prefent idea or 
impreffion. But, in defining what he takes me- 
mory to be, he takes for granted that kind of 
memory which he rejects. For can we find by 
experience, that an impreffion, after its firft ap- 
pearance to the mind, makes a fecond, and a 
third, with different degrees of flrength and vi- 
vacity, if we have not fo diftincl: a remembrance 
of its firft appearance, as enables us to know it, 
upon its fecond and third, notwithstanding that, 
in the interval, it has undergone a very consider- 
able change? 

All experience fuppofes memory ; and there 
can be no fuch thing as experience, without 
trailing to cur ov/n memory, or that of others : 
So that it appears from Mr Hume's account of 
this matter, that he found himfelf to have that 
kind of memory, which he acknowledges and 



defines, by exercifing that kind which he re- 

Secondly, What is it we find by experience or 
memory ? It is, " That when an imprefiion has 
" been prefent with the mind, it again makes 
" its appearance there as an idea, and that after 
** two different ways." 

If experience informs us of this, it certainly 
deceives us ; . for the thing is impofiible, and the 
author fhews it to be fo. Impreffions and ideas 
are fleeting perifhable things, which have no ex- 
iftence, but when we are confcious of them. If 
an imprefiion could make a fecond and a third 
appearance to the mind, it muft have a conti- 
nued exiftence during the interval of thefe ap- 
pearances, which Mr Hume acknowledges to be 
a grofs abfurdity. It feems then, that we find, 
by experience, a thing which is impoffible. We 
are impofed upon by our experience, and made 
to believe contradictions. 

Perhaps it may be faid, that thefe different 
appearances of the imprefiion are not to be under- 
ftood literally, but figuratively ; that the impref- 
iion is perfonified, and made to appear at different 
times, and in different habits, when no more i? 
meant, but that an imprefiion appears at one 
time ; afterwards a thing of a middle nature, 
between an imprefiion and an idea, which we 
call memory ; and laft of all a perfect idea, which 
We call imagination : that this figurative mean- 


ing agrees beft with the lafl feritence of the pe- 
riod, where we are told, that memory and ima- 
gination are faculties, whereby we repeat our 
impreffions in a more or lefs lively manner. To 
repeat an impreffion is a figurative way of fpeak- 
ing, which fignifies making a new impreffion fi- 
milar to the former. 

If, to avoid the abfurdity implied in the literal 
meaning, we underftand the Philofopher in this 
figurative one, then his definitions of memory 
and imagination, when ftripped of the figurative 
drefs, will amount to this, That memory is the 
faculty of making a weak impreffion, and ima- 
gination the faculty of making an impreffion 
flill weaker, after a correfponding ftrong one. 
Thefe definitions of memory and imagination 
labour under two defects ; Jirjl, That they con- 
vey no notion of the thing defined \ and, fe- 
condfyy That they may be applied to things of a 
quite different nature from thofe that are de- 

When we are faid to have a faculty of ma- 
king a weak impreffion after a correfponding 
ftrong one, it would not be eafy to conjecture 
that this faculty is memory. Suppofe a man 
ftrikes his head fmartly againft the wall, this is 
an impreffion ; now he has a faculty by which 
he can repeat this impreffion with lefs force, fo 
as not to hurt him ; this, by Mr Hume's ac- 
count, muft be memory. He has a faculty by 



which he can juft touch the wall with his head, 
fo that the impreflion entirely lofes its vivacity. 
This furely muft be imagination ; at leaft it 
comes as near to the definition given of it by Mr 
Hume as any thing I can conceive. 

Thirdly, We may obferve, that when we are 
told that we have a faculty of repeating our im- 
preffions in a more or lefs lively manner, this 
implies that we are the efficient caufes of our 
ideas of memory and imagination ; but this con- 
tradicts what the author fays a little before, 
where he proves, by what he calls a convincing 
argument, that impreffions are the caufe of their 
correfponding ideas. The argument that proves 
this had need indeed to be very convincing ; 
whether we make the idea to be a fecond ap- 
pearance of the impreflion, or a new impreilion 
iimilar to the former. 

If the firft be true, then the impreilion is the 
caufe of itfelf. If the fecond, then the impref- 
fion after it is gone, and has no exiftence, pro- 
duces the idea. Such are the myiteries of Mr 
Hume's philofophy. 

It may be obferved, that the common fyftem, 
that ideas are the only immediate objects of 
thought, leads to fcepticifm with regard to me- 
mory, as well as with regard to the obje&s of 
fenfe, whether thoie ideas are placed in the mind 
or in the brain. 


512 ESSAY III. [CHAP. 7. 

Ideas are faid to be things internal and pre- 
fent, which have no exiftence but during the 
moment they are in the mind. The objects of 
fenfe are things external, which have a conti- 
nued exiftence. When it is maintained, that 
all that we immediately perceive is only ideas or 
phantafms, how can we, from the exiftence of 
thofe phantafms, conclude the exiftence of an 
external world correfponding to them ? 

This difficult queftion feems not to have oc- 
curred to the Peripatetics. Des Cartes faw 
the difficulty, and endeavoured to find out ar- 
guments by which, from the exiftence of our 
phantafms or ideas, we might infer the exiftence 
of external objects. The fame courfe was fol- 
lowed by Malebranche, Arnauld, and Locke; 
but Berkeley and Hume eanly refuted all their 
arguments, and demonftrated that there is no 
ftrength in them. 

The fame difficulty with regard to memory 
naturally arifes from the fyftem of ideas ; and 
the only reafon why it was not obferved by Phi- 
lofophers, is, becaufe they give lefs attention to 
the memory than to the fenfes : For fince ideas 
are things prefent, how can we, from our ha- 
ving a certain idea prefently in our mind, con- 
clude that an event really happened ten or twenty 
years ago correfponding to it ? 

There is the fame need of arguments to prove, 
that the ideas of memory are pictures of things 



that really did happen, as that the ideas of fenfe 
are pictures of external objects which now exift. 
In both cafes, it will be impoffible to find any 
argument that has real weight. So that this 
hypothefis leads us to ab folate fcepticifm, with 
regard to thofe things which we mod distinctly 
remember, no lefs than with regard to the exter- 
nal objects of fenfe. 

It does not appear to have occurred either to 
Locke or to Berkeley, that their fyftem has 
the fame tendency to overturn the teftimony of 
memory as the teftimony of the fenfes. 

Mr Hume faw farther than both, and found 
this confequence of the fyftem of ideas perfectly 
correfponding to his aim of eftablifhing univer- 
fal fcepticifm. His fyftem is therefore more con- 
fiftent than theirs, and the conclufions agree 
better with the premifes. 

But if we fhould grant to Mr Hume, that our 
ideas of memory afford no juft ground to believe 
the paft exiftence of things which we remember, 
it may ft ill be alked, How it comes to pafs 
that perception and memory are accompanied 
*vith belief, while bare imagination is not ? 
Though this belief cannot be juftified upon his 
fyftem, it ought to be accounted for as a phe- 
nomenon of human nature. 

This he has done, by giving us a new theory of 
belief in general ; a theory which fuits very well 
with that of ideas, and feems to be a natural con- 

Vol. I. K k fcquence 



[CHAP. J< 

fequence of it, and which at the fame time re- 
conciles all the belief that we find in human na- 
ture to perfect fcepticifm. 

What then is this belief? It muft either be an 
idea, or fome modification of an idea ; we con- 
ceive many things which we do not believe. The 
idea of an object is the fame whether we believe 
it to exift, or barely conceive it. The belief adds 
no new idea to the conception ; it is therefore 
nothing but a modification of the idea of the 
thing believed, or a different manner of conceiv- 
ing it. Hear himfelf : 

" All the perceptions of the mind are of two 
kinds, impreffions and ideas, which differ from 
each other only in their different degrees of 
force and vivacity. Our ideas are copied from 
our impreffions, and reprefent them in all their 
parts. When you would vary the idea of a 
particular objecT, you can only increafe or diy 
minifh its force and vivacity : If you make any 
other change upon it, it rep relents a different 
object, or impreffion. The cafe is the fame as 
in colours. A particular fhade of any colour 
may acquire a new degree of livelinefs #r 
brightness, without any other variation : But 
when you produce any other variation, it is 
no longer the fame fhade or colour, So that 
as belief does nothing but vary the manner in 
which we conceive any object, it can only be-; 
li flow on our ideas an additional force and vi- 

*i vacity. 


n vacity. An opinion, therefore, or belief! may 
" be molt accurately denned a lively idea, rela- 
*' ted to or affbciated with a prefent impfeffion." 

This theory of belief is very fruitful of confe- 
quences, which Mr Hume traces with his ulual 
acutenefs, and brings into the fervice of his fyf- 
tem. A great part of his fyftem indeed is built 
upon it ; and it is of itfelf fufficient to prove 
what he calls his hypothecs, " that belief is 
" more properly an act of the fenfitive than of 
" the cogitative part of our natures." 

It is very difficult to examine this account of 
belief with the fame gravity with which it is 
propofed. It puts one in mind of the ingenious 
account given by Martin us Scriblerus of the 
power of fyllogifm, by making the major the 
male, and the minor the female, which being 
coupled by the middle term, generate the con- 
clulion. There is fitrely no fcience in which 
men of great parts and^higenuity have fallen in- 
to fuch grofs abmrdities as in treating of the 
powers of the mind. I cannot help thinking, 
that never any thing more abfurd was gravely 
maintained by any Philofopher, than this ac- 
count of the nature of belief, and of the diftinc- 
tion of perception, memory, and imagination. 

The belief of a proportion is an operation of 
mind of which every man is Confcious, and what 
it is, he underftands perfectly, though, on ac- 
count of its Simplicity, he cannot give a logical 


5l6 ESSAY HI. [CHAP. 7. 

definition of it. If he compares it with ftrength 
or vivacity of his ideas, or with any modifica- 
tion of ideas, they are fo far from appearing to 
be one and the fame, that they have not the leaft 

That a ftrong belief and a weak belief differ 
only in degree, I can eafily comprehend ; but 
that belief and no belief mould differ only in de- 
gree, no man can believe who underftands what 
he fpeaks : For this is in reality to fay that forne- 
thing and nothing differ only in degree, ; or that 
nothing is a degree of fomething. 

Every propofition that may be the object of 
belief, has a contrary propofition that may be 
the objecl of a contrary belief. The ideas of 
both, according to Mr Hume, are the fame, and 
differ only in degrees of vivacity. That is, con- 
traries differ only in degree ; and fo pleafure 
may be a degree of pain, and hatred a degree of 
love. But it is to no purpofe to trace the ab- 
furdities that follow from this doctrine, for none 
of them can be more abfurd than the doctrine 

Every man knows perfectly what it is to fee 
an objecl: with his eyes, what it is to remember 
a pafl event, and what it is to conceive a thing 
which has no exiflence. That thefe are quite 
different operations of his mind, he is as certain 
as that found differs from colour, and both from 
tafte ; and I can as ealily believe that found, 



and colour, and tafle, differ only in degree, as 
that feeing, and remembering, and imagining, 
differ only in degree. 

Mr Hume, in the third volume of his Trea- 
.life of Human Nature, is fenlible that his theo- 
ry of belief is liable to ftrong obje&ions, and 
feems, in fome meafure, to retract it ; but in 
what meafure, it is not eafy to fay. He feems 
ftill to think that belief is only a modification of 
the idea, but that vivacity is not a proper term to 
exprefs that modification. Inftead of it he ufes 
fome analogical phrafes to explain that modifi- 
cation, fuch as " apprehending the idea more 
" flrongly, or taking fafler hold of it." 

There is nothing more meritorious in 3. Phi- 
lofopher than to retracf an error upon convic- 
tion ; but in this inftance I humbly apprehend 
Mr Hume claims that merit upon too flight a 
ground : For I cannot perceive that the appre- 
hending an idea more ftrongly, or taking fafler 
hold of it, exprefTes any other modification of 
the idea than what was before expreffed by its 
ftrength and vivacity, or even that it exprefTes 
the fame modification more properly. Whatever 
modification of the idea he makes belief to be, 
whether its vivacity, or fome other without a 
name, to make perception, memory, and imagi- 
nation, to be the different degrees of that mo- 
dification, is chargeable with the abfurdities we 
have mentioned, 


5i8 ESSAY in, [chap. 7. 

Before we leave this fubject of memory, it is 
proper to take notice of a diftinction which Ari- 
stotle makes between memory and reminif- 
cence, becaufe the diftinction has a real founda- 
tion in nature, though in our language I think 
we do not diftinguifh them by different names. 

Memory is a kind of habit which is not al- 
ways in exercife with regard to things we re- 
member, but is ready to fuggeft them when 
there is occafion. The moil perfect, degree of 
this habit is, when the thing prefents itfelf to 
our remembrance fpontaneoufly, and without la- 
bour, as often as there is occafion. A fecond 
degree is, when the thing is forgot for a longer 
or ihorter time, even when there is occafion to 
remember it, yet at laft fome incident brings it 
to mind without any fearch. A third degree 
is, when we call about and fearch for what we 
would remember, and fo at laft find it out. It 
is this laft, I think, which Aristotle calls re- 
minifcence, as diftinguifhed from memory. 

Reminifcence, therefore, includes a will to re- 
collect fomething paft, and a fearch for it. But 
here a difficulty occurs. It may be faid, that 
what we will to remember we muft conceive, as 
there can be no will without a conception of the 
thing willed. A will to remember a thing, 
therefore, feems to imply that we remember it 
already, and have no occafion to fearch .for it. 
But this difficulty is cafiiy removed. When we 



will to remember a thing, we muft remember 
fomething relating to it, which gives us a re- 
lative conception of it ; but we may, at the fame 
time, have no conception what the thing is, but 
only what relation it bears to fomething elfe. 
Thus, I remember that a friend charged me witb 
a commiffion to be executed at fuch a place ; 
but I have forgot what the commiffion was. By 
•applying my thought to what I remember con- 
cerning it, that it was given by fuch a perfon, 
upon fuch an occafion, in confequence of fuch a 
converfation, I am led, in a train of thought, to 
the very thing I had forgot, and recollect di- 
stinctly what the commiffion was. 

Aristotle fays, that brutes have not remi- 
nifcence, and this I think is probable ; but, 
fays he, they have memory. It cannot, indeed, 
be doubted but they have fomething very like 
to it, and in fome inftances in a very great de- 
gree. A dog knows his matter after long ab- 
ience. A horfe will trace back a road he has 
once gone as accurately as a man ; and this is 
the more itrange, that the train of thought 
which he had in going muft be reverfed in his 
return. Jt is very like to fome prodigious me- 
mories we read of, where a perfon, upon hear- 
ing an hundred names or unconnected words 
pronounced, can begin at the lalt, and go back- 
wards to the firft, without loling or mifplacing 


52© ESSAY III. [CHAP. 7. 

one. Brutes certainly may learn much from ex- 
perience, which feems to imply memory. 

Yet I fee no reafon to think that brutes mea- 
fure time as men do, by days, months, or years, 
or that they have any diftincl: knowledge of the 
interval between things which they remember, 
or of their diftance from the prefent moment. 
If we could not record tranfactions according to 
their dates, human memory would be fomething 
very different from what it is, and perhaps re- 
ferable more the memory of brutes. 




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